Campus News

September 6, 2011

Recalling the impact of 9/11 at Emory

The Emory community gathers for a candlelight vigil on Sept. 12, 2001.

In the nature of most tragedies, 9/11 brought the Emory community together.

On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, just 36 hours after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Emory community held a candlelight vigil on the Quadrangle. What would happen next remained uncertain. Would additional attacks follow? Are our loved ones safe?

In a world with so many unanswered questions, that night the people of Emory drew strength from each other. The crowd numbered in the thousands, and candles flickered from Candler Library to the Administration Building.

As the University community prepares to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 (see the "Emory Remembers 9/11" calendar of events), some of those who were on campus in 2001 share their memories:

Bill Chace, President Emeritus

Chace, who was president of Emory in 2001, recalls watching the attacks on TV "in silence and horror." Quickly realizing the implications for Emory, Chace composed an all-campus email of reassurance and comfort, which eventually appeared in The New York Times, and delivered it at an all-campus gathering in Glenn Auditorium. (Read his remarks from the Sept. 11, 2001 interfaith service.) Speaking at an alumni event in New York later in the fall, Chace said, "These people had suffered much more directly than we, but the turnout was huge. We had just come to offer our sympathy; they welcomed us and we cried with them. It was a moving experience."

Scott Cunningham, '00Ox-'02C, Congressional Staffer, Washington, D.C.

When terrorists attacked the U.S. on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the implications weren't immediately clear. Cunningham briefly watched the news reports, then he went to class. Around lunchtime, all non-essential university business at Emory was cancelled. Cunningham's most enduring memory of fall 2001 took place the night of Sept. 12. Like thousands of others, he attended the candlelight vigil on the Quad. As it wound down, many placed their still-burning candles underneath the flagpole. "Every time I come back to campus, I go to the Quad and pause by the flagpole to reflect," Cunningham says. "You can still see how the burnt wax stained the concrete. Something like that just sticks with you."

Susan Henry-Crowe '76T, Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life

On the morning of Sept. 11, Henry-Crowe was in a funeral home, comforting two grieving parents from New York whose son, an Emory student, had died. They were making arrangements to take him home. "The day was a metaphor for my time here at Emory," she says. "Private engagement with people, like those parents who had experienced a profound loss, and public work, in the case of Sept. 11 to bring the entire Emory community together." Later that day, Henry-Crowe composed and delivered a sermon at an all-campus gathering in Glenn Auditorium. (Read her remarks.) The parents and their son made it home to Staten Island five days later. They took the train.

Anna Manasco Dionne '02C, Attorney, Birmingham, Ala.

Students and administrators alike looked to the 2001-02 Student Government Association president for leadership, and her reassuring voice comforted a campus searching for answers. Not that she lacked fear herself. "That experience gave me a much greater sense of appreciation for the generosity of the Emory community, and for its ability to come together," says Dionne. Her address at the candlelight vigil was one of its most memorable moments. "On the flip side, though, 9/11 also gave me—and others, I think—a greater sense of appreciation for the opportunities that we are blessed to have. It was—to say the least—scary, and that fear and uncertainty certainly tempered the sense of invincibility that can be common in someone in their senior year of college."

Capt. Sarah Martino Dingivan '05C-'09L, Attorney, U.S. Air Force, Colorado

"I got to college, then two and a half weeks later, the whole tempo of the country changed," Dingivan recalls. "I grew up quickly. That day forced me to think more critically about things." Some 40 women from the fourth floor of Longstreet, her residence hall, gathered in front the television. About a quarter were from New York, and with mobile service a sliver of what it is today, they couldn't reach loved ones and were understandably frightened. "We created community quickly," Dingivan says. "Everyone reached out to each other, and we built our own support systems." Fortunately, all of those loved ones survived.

Myron McGhee '95T, Library Specialist, Candler School of Theology, and
Juana Clem McGhee '95T, Academic Department Administrator, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies

In the fall of 2001, Myron McGhee worked evenings in Woodruff Library's circulation department. That allowed him to stay home with his two young daughters while his wife Juana worked her day job as an accountant in Buckhead. When the attacks took place, the McGhees did what millions of working parents around the country did that day: "The most important thing was to get home and be together as a family," Juana Clem McGhee says. Perhaps that desire for closeness affected her career, as she took a job at Emory just a few months later. Myron McGhee, a musician, artist and photographer, performed at the one-year anniversary commemoration in 2002, and his peace-themed photo exhibit "The Mind's Eye," currently is on display in the Schwartz Center. A closing reception will take place Sunday, Sept. 11.

Joe Moon, Dean of Campus Life, Oxford College

The Oxford community had learned of the attacks during an all-campus coffee hosted by Dean Dana Greene on the Quadrangle next to Few Monument. On his way to speak at an all-student meeting in the dining hall that night, Moon noted, "The presidents of the Muslim Student Association and the Jewish Student Union were just in front of me, and they were walking hand in hand to the meeting. It just moved me. They weren't just walking for each other. They were a symbol for the whole community." (Read more from Oxford College in 2001.) One week after the attacks, a partnership of art faculty and Oxford students painted two murals reflecting on the time. Today, those murals hang in the Oxford student center.

Bobby Paul, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies

Paul, who at the time was the newly-named acting dean of Emory College, was presiding over his first faculty meeting when he received a call from his daughter Eloise '99C, who worked for a real estate company in lower Manhattan. She had stepped out of a coffee shop and watched a plane hit the World Trade Center. "[The response to the tragedy] was my first real introduction to the abilities of Emory students," Paul says. "I was really impressed by the student leadership group. They handled that day and the aftermath with great maturity." Later than night, Eloise called back. She had walked 70 blocks uptown and was safe with a friend.

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