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Community Gathers for Evening Vigil

Campus Religious Leaders, Administrators Offer Help, Direction

By Eun J. Lee


The MIT community came together on the steps of the Stratton Student Center for a vigil yesterday evening, after news of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. spread across campus.

“There are no words that can capture the sadness and pain we all feel about the attacks in Washington and New York this morning,” said Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 as he began the vigil.

Clay read a statement from President Charles M. Vest, who was out of the country. As a result of the cancellation of all airline travel in the U.S, Vest is unable to return to MIT.

“My prayers are with all who are touched by this tragedy,” Vest said in his statement. “I am confident that we will be able to sustain each other through this heart-wrenching time.”

Vest’s message also asserted that as a community and individuals, “we are not powerless before this sadness.”

Students urged to give blood

Vest’s speech encouraged members of the MIT community to help victims of the attack by giving blood, reaching out to others at MIT who are new to the area or from foreign countries, and reaching out to friends who are frightened, discouraged, or sad.

Following Clay’s speech, student members of various campus religious groups each took turns reading scriptures and prayers. These students represented Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.

The prayers were followed with an address by Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict, who urged students to share emotions and not be alone.

“Each person has a responsibility to come together to show each other how important we are to each other in this community,” Benedict said.

He urged students to talk to friends, housemasters, Graduate Resident Tutors, Residential Life Associates, and other campus support channels.

“I am especially concerned today that students reach out and talk to each other,” Benedict said. “Don't isolate yourselves.”

Benedict also announced that there will be a community forum today to continue the conversation started at the vigil, and “to show that we are one community, undivided, and that we face the future together.”

Catholic Priest Paul Reynolds, Chair of the Board of Chaplains that helped organize the vigil, was the last to speak. He urged attendees to write a prayer or wish on a piece of paper and drop it into a communal basket. The basket will be placed inside the MIT Chapel for any people who are still interested in adding a prayer.

Event brings students together

Students attending the vigil thought the event greatly benefitted the MIT community. “I’m really glad [this event] has brought the school together as a community,” said Lei Lei ’02. “The best way to deal with this is to have people talk about it and show support.”

“Before at MIT, it seemed like people didn’t care about anything except their own classes,” said Brad M. McCoy ’02. “It’s really great to see that such a large showing of students came together today.”

“It’s pretty important as Muslims to stand up for right and wrong,” said Mohammad B. Kaleem ’02. “We want to make it clear where we stand.”

Many students came to the vigil to obtain moral support and comfort.

“MIT has so many alumni and connections in New York City; almost everyone here is affected by this event,” Lei said.

“I don’t know any people in New York City, but even just the magnitude makes the impersonal loss very substantial,” said Vikram Maheshri ’03.

Students turn shock into action

For the most part, it seems that the reactions of most students has been constructive. Students have concentrated on supporting each other and the victims of the tragedy.

“Most people here are more concerned about how to help than getting revenge,” said Benazeer S. Noorani ’04.

“I have heard a small amount of flying accusations against the Arabs and others, but the responses to these have been mostly blank stares,” said Jesse W. Cox ’02.

Tanya Reza ’04 said that her plans for the night and tomorrow include “supporting friends, talking about the situation, and making sense of things.”

“Hopefully there are lots of people taking blood donations tomorrow because I want to donate blood. I don’t know what else to do,” said John S. Reed G.

Benedict summarized the situation yesterday by saying, “We will get through this, but it will not be business as usual over the next few days.”