The Colgate Scene
|by John D. Hubbard|
Bridget Benisch '02, a volunteer with the Hamilton Fire Department, was part of the color guard during the playing of the National Anthem before the football game with Fordham and men's soccer game against Bucknell. Both contests were preceded with a moment of silence in remembrance of the September 11 attacks.
Campus wasn't spared the far-reaching tendrils of terrorism.
By mid-morning on September 11 faces were drawn in concern and the energy had drained out of a perfect late summer day. Students and faculty huddled in front of a small television at the Women's Center and by the Coop's big screen. Outside Hascall, a couple wept softly.
"As we all strive to understand what is happening in our country and our world today, I write to tell you how we are organizing Colgate's resources to respond to the needs of the community," said Interim President Jane Pinchin in a memo alerting the campus to the availability of counselors, announcing the establishment of an information center and urging students to stay on campus "until the extent of this situation is more fully understood."
The extraordinary document also informed the community of an all-campus gathering to be held that Tuesday afternoon.
Students, faculty members and staff filled the Quad with the shadow of the Chapel's steeple falling down the center of the crowd. From the granite steps Pinchin addressed the throng that spread from West Hall to Lawrence and surrounded the marker where Samuel Payne felled the first tree in 1794.
The gathering heard from counselors, far too busy in recent history, who offered practical advice -- we grieve in our own ways, keep an eye on each other, don't forget to eat. Dean of the College Mike Cappeto urged students to call home. The chaplain's staff led prayers. President Pinchin spoke from the heart and concluded by quoting Whitman on Lincoln's death, then literally reached out to students, grasping hands, embracing stunned young men and women, simply listening.
Wednesday classes were suspended and in their stead there was a full day of seminars, workshops, teach-ins and discussions. A second gathering assembled on the Quad and when through the valley twilight fell, a candlelight vigil was held.
In the Classics Center that morning, students in the linked courses "American Religion in These Times" and "America as a Democracy" taught by Professor of Religion Chris Vecsey and Associate Professor of Political Science Tim Byrnes spent the first half-hour of the session silently reading the New York Times.
"A creeping horror," reads one of the headlines beneath "U.S. Attacked" that banners the September 12 late edition the students are consuming. Like so much in the past 24 hours it was too much and their responses were muted, restrained. Said Vecsey, not in reproach but as a comfort, "We have work in this class that is still important. Our ordinary lives are still important. This is huge, but we will carry on, return to learning and thinking clearly."
Interim President Jane Pinchin comforts a couple.
In classrooms all over campus the distinction between teacher and student was
blurred as fears were shared, reactions bounced back and forth and opinions
were put forth without edges.|
At the second rally, in the early afternoon of Wednesday, the scene was similar to the day before: the quad full, the mood somber.
Brynes was the first of a roster of speakers. "Colgate is a place of learning where that learning takes place in a context of humanity and vulnerability." He had told his class earlier he was unsure of what to say and from between the chapel's huge columns admitted, "today I don't feel like Professor Brynes. I feel like Tim, Delores's husband, Gavin and Bridget's father."
Omid Safi, assistant professor of philosophy and religion, who teaches Islamic studies, encouraged those gathered to reach out to the small number of Muslim students.
"Our teachings, our values come from the Qur'an, the Qur'an that says, `If you save one human life, it is as if you saved all of humanity. If you kill one human being, it is as if you killed all of humanity.'"
Senior Holly Teliska, a respected student leader, said, "I want to believe that through all the death, the pain, the grief and the questions of yesterday can be born a new cause: a cause for freedom. Our defining moment should not be this act of cowardice. We will suffer, we will hurt, we will wonder but we will not be intimidated. We will not be disillusioned and we will heal. We must take this event as a challenge to our generation to uphold the values of a free and open democratic society."
Poet and Professor of English Peter Balakian posed a question. "How do citizens behave, react in unprecedented situations? There are no easy answers. We are in the wilderness, the high-tech, postmodern wilderness. We must navigate step by step. We must try our best to make some sense of chaos with the hope that this will bring us to a better place."
Then recalling his own undergraduate days against the backdrop of Vietnam, Balakian continued, "What that unprecedented moment did for me, my friends and many of my generation was to get us to start taking the world seriously; it got us to begin to study harder, read more, think deeper. It made us hungry for knowledge."
The September 12 gathering.
As he concluded, the poet quoted another, Theodore Roethke, "In a dark time
the eye begins to see."|
And the ear begins to hear. Violinist and Professor of Music Laura Klugherz performed Xavier Turull's Six Songs of Absence and suddenly many of the emotions of a surreal 36 hours found some focus.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in classrooms as 11 faculty members sought to provide an historic context for the attacks. Professor of Philosophy and Religion Marilyn Thie on "Beyond a Warrior Response," Assistant Professor of History Ray Douglas on "A Comparative Perspective on Political Violence," Associate Professor of Educational Studies Kay Johnston on "This Isn't the Time for Certainty" and Director and Professor of Peace Studies Nigel Young on "Perspectives: Peace, Globalism and Tragedy" were among the offerings.
Students not only listened, they responded. The lines to give blood were staggering. Volunteers flooded the new Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE) in East Hall to assemble nearly 800 toiletry kits for New York City workers. Donations topped $8,000 in a matter of hours.
The attacks galvanized other areas of campus as well. The alumni office was fielding calls and responding to e-mails almost immediately and monitoring websites as they cropped up. The records office ran a computer list of alumni and parents working in the World Trade Center and Pentagon and became the clearinghouse for information about the lost, the missing and those who were confirmed safe.
Research, which normally prepares profiles for development, began scanning newspapers and other media outlets for company information. In conjunction with the alumni office and Webmaster Michael Evans, Director of Development Systems and Research Bev Cappeto posted findings on the Colgate website.
"The mood was somber, but everyone jumped right in. It became a quest for us and whenever we were able to pull someone off the `unknown' list we cheered," said Cappeto.
Upstairs in Merrill House, Director of Alumni Affairs Robin Shelly Summers '90 worked with Internet Association Corporation on a way for people to post messages. Several pages off the main alumni website were created while the staff tried to put up only concrete information at a time when rumor was rampant.
Students for Social Justice sponsored a National Day of Action on the chapel steps to symbolize "rebuilding the world, `peace by peace.'"
The alumni office was also involved in figuring out the logistics of sending
out an e-mail message from President Pinchin to 17,000 addresses and then
dealing with the bounce-backs. |
As memorial services began to be held, Director of Development Programs Patty Caprio made sure 13 maroon roses were sent on behalf of the university and University Relations staffers were encouraged to attend the ceremonies where appropriate. Caprio was also involved in setting up memorial funds and processing gifts that came in honoring the deceased.
Associate Vice President for Alumni Affairs RuthAnn Loveless huddled with Alumni Corporation Board of Directors President Mike Martin '69 to determine if the September 13-15 fall meeting should proceed on campus. The 55 members of the board were polled and the meeting was held (see page 17). A majority of the board wanted to be with other Colgate people in a place that was safe and quiet.
Dartmouth cancelled the September 15 football game scheduled for Andy Kerr Stadium and women's tennis, crew, golf and the soccer teams did not play. Field hockey, volleyball, men's tennis and the cross country teams did.
Soccer coach Mike Doherty first learned that Dave Retik '90, a former player, had been on Flight #11. The next day he learned Todd Pelino '89 was in the first tower and the following day came the news about Scott Coleman '94. Three players gone.
"Scott was kind of everybody's best friend. Todd gave everything he had, the type of player you want on the field when you need a goal most. Dave had a quick wit. He could find the humor in the tensest situation. To have three kids taken away . . . it's very difficult for me."
There are thousands of stories in the aftermath. Here are a handful with a Colgate connection.
Van Don Williams '77 is a battalion aide with the 4-9 out of Queens that responded with a convoy of 11 units. Williams was on the scene about 10 minutes, setting up a command post and coordinating personnel, when the second tower collapsed. He speaks hauntingly of "the sounds of darkness at Ground Zero. The eerie thing was the blackness that covered you -- and the silence."
When the clouds lifted, Williams began climbing "mountains of steel I-beams" and putting out as much fire as he could.
Trained in critical incident stress management, Williams has been able to help other firefighters, but he admits he himself is working on adrenaline and his faith in God.
An all-campus gathering, featuring barbecue, music and information, served as a diversion and prelude for the homecoming bonfire.
"What's most difficult for us is that we go to Ground Zero and then on our off
days we go to services."
Lauretta Farrell '84, a consultant with the Red Cross as a client, wrote, "Since 10 a.m., Tuesday, September 11 I have been working with the American Red Cross on our disaster relief efforts. I helped to establish a command center near Newark Airport, set up shelters for stranded travelers and workers who could not get home in the wake of road and bridge closures, and took far too many calls from distraught families, looking for loved ones who were working in the World Trade Centers when they collapsed. Since then, I have been working nearly nonstop to raise funds for the relief effort and deploying volunteers who want to help support the men and women undertaking our rescue efforts." From Ground Zero she reports, "Written in the soot that covered the fire engines was `Avenge 9-11' and `We will always remember our brothers -- God Bless America,' Silent firefighters filed past this wreckage, tears in their eyes. Tears in mine."
Dr. Robert Raiber '68, president-elect of the New York County Dental Society, volunteered with a team of dentists to conduct autopsies and dental identification.
"We take as many x-rays as possible, then we use a toothbrush to clean the soot from the dentition and begin charting."
Lorie Slutsky '76, president of New York Community Trust, is administering the September 11 Fund that raised nearly $100 million for disaster relief in one week, with the United Way of New York City.
"There isn't an American who wrote a check that doesn't want to ensure that those in uniform and the innocent victims are taken care of, but there are rules and regulations," Slutsky told the Wall Street Journal. "I've never seen the government so willing to be flexible, but it will take time for hundreds of millions of dollars to flow. We're trying to create a system that will allow us to be accountable to the world."
John Hasper '57, deputy secretary of state in New York, has been overseeing the Office of Fire Prevention and Control providing fire, ambulance and rescue backup for the city. As thoughts turn to rebuilding, other divisions reporting to Hasper will come into play.
"We're just starting to scale back down there," said Hasper, "from pretty much a full court press. We've come through it in pretty good shape."
Senior Larry Durland, sophomore Kevin Collopy and Darryl Simcoe, director of media and instructional technology services, all members of the Southern Madison Country Ambulance Corps (SOMAC), were part of a crew that provided 24 hours of EMS coverage at the World Trade Center. The crew was dispatched at the request of the Department of Health and Midstate Regional Emergency Medical Services.
Family Weekend, September 21-23, couldn't have come at a better time. Indeed, one student told Pinchin, "If I couldn't be at home, this is where I belong." At a state of the college session, Jack Dovidio, interim provost and dean of the faculty, told parents, "What we are trying to do is inspire and transform students to make this a better world. What did we do in this chaos? We held a series of events that led us to a much better place."
Said Pinchin, "The Colgate University I thought I knew took one step further and became a family. Our response in the face of tragedy has been uplifting."
One of the concluding events of Family Weekend was a memorial service for alumni and friends. The chapel bell tolled 13 times, Mary King '04 sang "The Star Spangled Banner" and University Chaplain Nancy De Vries offered words of welcome.
"It is good to be one people and come together in times like these," she said.
Professor of English Fred Busch read from A Farewell to Arms, Nuria AbdulSabur '02 quoted the Qur'an, "It is He who has settled us in this home that will last," and the Thirteen sang "Amazing Grace."
Catholic Chaplain John Donovan led the prayer of St. Francis, Alex Wood '02 spoke the words of John Donne and Rabbi Michael Tayvah sang El Malay Rachamin, a memorial prayer.
"In this numbing and incomprehensible loss, I urge you to listen to your friends, understand, stay close," said Chairman of the Board of Trustees John Golden '66.
Nadine Joseph '03 of the Sojourners sang "I know who holds my hand" and then the congregation sang "America the Beautiful" -- "O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife/Who more than self their country loved,/And mercy more than life!"
We will mark time, both on campus and across the globe, by September 11. For now, Colgate grieves and carries on.
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