September 17, 2001
come together by candlelight
A crowd of more than 2,000 faculty, staff and students journeyed to the
Quad in noisy groups, some as large as the floor of a residence hall,
last Wednesday night at 9 p.m. They packed themselves shoulder to shoulder
dozens of feet deep in front of Candler Library and, almost as soon as
Student Government Association (SGA) President Anna Manasco stepped to
the microphone, the diverse faces and voices in the crowd became one.
We gather to think about the unthinkable, to attempt to explain
the inexplicable, and to mourn what seems like the unbearable, said
Manasco, explaining the difficult emotions floating across the crowd,
which had come together for a candlelight vigil in memory of the victims
of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington the previous morning.
The vigil was coordinated with just a few hours notice by SGA and
led by the efforts of Manasco; SGA Vice President Josh Bornstein; Chris
Long, SGA special activities coordinator; Lindsay Warren, SGA vice president
for student life; and Adrian Tonge, SGA coordinator for community affairs.
The Office of Religious Life provided candles.
Strengthened by each other, refreshed by our togetherness, we gather
here tonight to do our little to expunge intolerance, divisiveness, and
hatred from the human race and from the world, Manasco continued.
We gather here tonight to reflect on the lives of the innocent,
the efforts of the rescuers, the pain of the affected and the shock to
Dressed solemnly in her vestments, Dean of the Chapel Susan Henry-Crowe
delivered a prayer she had written after reading the prayer cards she
received at the previous afternoons campuswide service at Glenn
Day is done, only shadows remain, she said. We call
to the one whose word is good. The one who protects and says, Morning
will come, though it still be night. Hear our prayer and grant redemption.
Following Henry-Crowes brief words and a performance by Emorys gospel choir Voices of Inner Strength, around two dozen students stepped individually to the microphone to share their thoughts.
One told of his high school best friendan intern at the World Trade Centerwho was missing.
Thomas Stokes, a sophomore from Brooklyn, related his panic when he couldnt
reach members of his family shortly after the attack. Then he expressed
his feeling of relief upon finally reaching them and discovering they
Talk of understanding was widespread, perhaps no more so than in the
words of freshman Robby Rahin. As Islamic student from LaGrange, he feared
retribution against people of his faithmany of them American-born,
many more of them freedom-loving, and the overwhelming majority disgusted
by the acts of a tiny sliver of zealots. Hed heard whispers about
Arabs and Arab-Americans and read some unpleasant Learnlink posts, he
Rahins final statement, Just remember: An eye for an eye
makes us all blind, hung in the air as he descended the Candler
Patriotism, an all-too-often overbearing and misplaced emotion, was dealt
out in sober and calmly appropriate measures. One student passed out 150
handheld American flags. Glances up at the Quads flag, rippling
gently at half mast, were accompanied by silent reverence.
Red, white and blue ribbons were available for donations. Proceeds from
the ribbons, at $1,500 before the ceremony, surely crossed the $2,000
mark before the night was over, as each of the four tables set up in the
Quad corners received a steady stream of money throughout. All the dollars
collected will go the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
After a group singing of Lee Greenwoods God Bless the U.S.A.,
spontaneity took over. First, the crowd sang Amazing Grace,
then God Bless America. We Shall Overcome and
the national anthem followed shortly thereafter.
At 10:10 p.m., the formal portion of the ceremony concluded. Close to
200 students spontaneously gathered around the Quad flagpole, placing
their candles in a ringa band of gold flickering in the light evening
Students huddled in twos and threes, holding hands; some sobbed quietly.
Other students sat by themselves, some resting their heads in their hands,
some absorbing the moment in quiet contemplation.
After a while, as the crowd drifted away and the bright candle glow washed
out the Quads ever-present evening shadows, all that could be heard
was the shuffle of sandals and the crackling of the crickets.
The next morning, a few candles could be seen still burning under the flag.