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Community Gathers in Killian

Forum Brings Thousands Together for Reflection, Discussion

By Dana Levine


Students, faculty, and other members of the MIT community gathered on Killian Court Wednesday to reflect upon Tuesday’s tragedies in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania.

Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 called the gathering in order to bring the MIT community together for the first time since the tragedy. “At 3:00 pm in Killian court, the entire MIT community -- students, faculty, and staff -- is invited to assemble to share our feelings, support each other as members of the community, and draw strength from our common sense of purpose and caring,” Clay said on Tuesday evening in a letter to the MIT community.

The gathering began with the playing of a musical passage by Gustav Mahler, which was followed by a short speech delivered by Clay. “It is important to share our thoughts, and to draw on the strength of a community united,” he said. “The greatest benefit will come from your talking to each other, and not from anything coming from this podium.”

Clay said that members of the MIT community should take care not to sublimate blame for the tragedy on each other. “There has already been a small trickle of hateful communication directed at members of our community,” he said. “We have the responsibility to support each other, and the diversity our community represents.”

Following Clay’s address, Rev. Amy McCreath led the community in a minute of silence honoring those who lost their lives on Tuesday.

Stephen C. Graves, professor of management and chair of the faculty, delivered a short address, which was followed by brief speeches given by Undergraduate Association President Jaime E. Devereaux ’02 and Graduate Student Council President Dilan A. Seneviratne.

Seneviratne spoke about how many of the international students and faculty have lived through terrorism in their home countries. “I know there are many international staff, students, and faculty who have been through this before,” he said.

Groups at Killian discuss incident

Following Seneviratne’s address, the community split up into groups of ten to fifteen people, each of which was led by a faculty facilitator. Members of each group discussed their feelings about the tragedy, and told personal stories about people they knew who were involved in Tuesday’s events.

For some, this ceremony was the first chance that they had to truly reflect upon the incident. Reverend John Wuestneck, a protestant chaplain, said that his work schedule had not given him much time to think about the significance of this tragedy.

“I’ve been working so hard, it didn’t really sink in until the music at the beginning of the ceremony,” he said. Wuestneck said that most students who he has talked to felt that they benefitted from Wednesday’s discussion groups.

Chaplains discuss student concerns

Kevin M. Ford, chaplain of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, said that many students are still numb from the experience. “There is a lot of shock about what the future is going to bring,” he said.

“People are afraid, feeling distracted, angry ... I don’t think it has really sunk in for a lot of people,” Wuestneck said. “Some students went to school there, passed by that building hundreds of times.”

Ford said that everyone needs to make sure that their confusion doesn’t turn them against other people on campus. “Particularly in a case where you don’t know who to be angry at, it is easy to misdirect your bad feelings,” he said.

Wuestneck worries that our nation may react before we have time to truly think about who bears the full responsibility for Tuesday’s events. “I’m really afraid that we as a nation are going to react too quickly,” he said.

Services available in coming days

The chaplaincy has arranged several services which will support students in the coming days. A bulletin board containing a list of support resources and suggestions for ways to help victims and their families has been placed on the first floor of the student center.

The chapel will remain open this weekend, and chaplains will be available on Friday and Monday to provide counseling services to students. The main dining room of building W11 will also be open, allowing people to continue discussion.

Several religious groups have planned services for today, which President Bush has proclaimed a national day of prayer and remembrance. At 12:30 p.m, an Interfaith Prayer Service will be held in the MIT Chapel, and at 5:15 p.m, the reflecting wall at MIT will be dedicated.