September 17, 2001
finds support from within
Oxford College banded together as a community to absorb and react to
the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Twice that terrible day, at noon and at 4 p.m., Oxford students, faculty
and staff gathered in the Chapel to try and come to terms with the events
of the morning.
The mood was shock, said Joe Moon, Oxfords associate
dean for Campus Life. It was a coming together, and I think our
diversity helped. We had students of Arabic background and Jewish background
speaking up and supporting each other.
At the noon event, students were encouraged to light candles in the Chapel
as readings were given from multiple faithsChristian, Islam, Jewish
and Buddhist, to name a few.
The 4 p.m. gathering was more formal with the music of Grace Lim on piano
and Han Oh on guitar and vocals to accompany the readings.
It was affirming in terms of looking for meaningful ways to deal
with this tragedy, said Oxford Chaplain Darryl Barrow.
That night, at 8 p.m. in the dining hall, the Oxford community met again.
More than 500 studentsnearly all the colleges populationwere
among the attendees packing the hall. Deans Dana Greene and Moon, Barrow,
Adriane Ivey of the Oxford English department, and Sandra Schein, director
of Oxfords counseling center, all addressed the crowd, as did Samar
Uthman, a Palestinian-American student from Miami.
Uthman urged fellow students not to buy into the medias negative
portrayal of Palestinians, as some were shown celebrating the attack in
the Middle East. The panel then opened the floor to whomever wanted to
share their thoughts.
I was just immensely proud of this community, Greene said,
adding thatlike MoonOxfords diversity strengthens the
campus. Several Muslim students spoke, expressing support (and receiving
it as well).
Another student came forward to say her parents were injured in the attack
but had made it to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan and would be fine. That
personalized the tragedy for a lot of people.
My reaction is [that] we not get hysterical and look for premature blame or retribution, Barrow said. That way, there could be even more horror. Our prayers need to be for the victims and their families and also for the witnesses of this tragedy. I pray for our political and military leaders to have the courage to lead us through this.
Oxford has a crisis plan to deal with tragedies such as student death
or even a major building fire, but Moon said a tragedy on the scale of
the events of Sept. 11 is impossible to anticipate.
But, according to Moon, the closeness of the Oxford community is one
of the things that will help it deal with the tragedy. That feeling played
a role in Oxford students returning class on Wednes-day, Sept. 12one
day earlier than their Atlanta campus counterparts.
One reason we had classes was that we thought being with the teachers
would be a good thing, Moon said. When this happened, a lot
of teachers pushed their books aside and said, Lets talk about
Support events continued as well. The Black Student Alliance held a vigil
Sept. 12, drawing about 50 members of the Oxford community.
As events were unfolding Sept. 11, the counseling center distributed
materials about how to deal with tragedy and pre-and post-traumatic stress.
It also opened its doors for walk-in consultationsnormally counseling
is by appointment only.
Residence hall staff members, as well, increased their profile in the
Oxford dorms but approached students less formally, talking with them
alone or in pairs.
Schein said she is working with students and Oxford staff and faculty to set up volunteer efforts to assist victims in New York and Washington. Were trying to create ways to deal with this feeling of helplessness, she said. Formal plans are being sketched out on a day-to-day basis.