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MIT Ceremonies Look Back on Sept. 11

By Lakshmi Nambiar

MIT commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with a full schedule of events, including the flag lowering at DuPont Court and an all-community campus gathering on Kresge Oval.

The day’s events began at 8:30 a.m. with an open gathering at the flagpole at Dupont Court. The MIT community joined President Charles Vest in the ceremony to lower the US flag in Killian Court to half staff. This event ended at 8:46 a.m., marking the time at which the first plane collided into the World Trade Center. Also at this time, MIT Chapel bells chimed in unison with bells throughout Cambridge.

“I was very moved by the ceremony. Everyone was very solemn and we all connected in the silence. I felt like a part of the MIT community even though this was my first time away from home since Sept. 11,” said Alison M. Taylor ’06.

The 5 p.m. all-community campus gathering at Kresge Oval drew a much bigger crowd. Catholic Chaplain Paul Reynolds and other MIT Chaplains gave a community greeting and blessing.

Community leaders speak at gathering

At the community gathering, President Charles M. Vest discussed “our community in transition.” “It is a day of remembrance ... but much more importantly, it is a day from which to move forward,” he said. “We are not only citizens of our nations, but citizens of our world.” He urged the audience to “be proactive” and not to “be naÏve,” but rather, “to strive to maintain our openness” within the MIT community.

“Remembering our shared past” was the theme of the remarks from Chancellor Philip L. Clay PhD ’75. Clay named the eight MIT alumni that died on Sept. 11, 2001. In their remembrance, he said, “We honor the victims of 9/11, our country and the world when we seek to understand the world.”

MIT President Emeritus Paul E. Gray ’54, commended the Muslim Student Association for spreading awareness about their religious beliefs and practices. Last year, MSA held Ramadan dinner programs, thus allowing 500 members of the MIT community, including Gray himself, to better understand the Islamic faith.

Members of the design and reconstruction team then veiled the reflecting wall with a blue cloth. Letters and other various mementos left next to the wall were collected earlier and sent to the MIT Museum.

Following the veiling, student representatives of various MIT faith communities, including Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Christian students, gave global prayers of faith and peace.

Jyoti Agrawal ’03 also spoke at the ceremony, urging fellow students, faculty and staff to take action and help others. “Go out into this community, this nation, or even this world, and change it,” she said.

Cambridge holds vigil on river

The City of Cambridge also held a candle vigil of light on the banks of the Charles River from last night. At the two gathering places, Magazine Beach and Weeks Foot Bridge, the public was invited to join in a memorial light vigil. City volunteers handed out glow sticks at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Memorial Drive to participants. Sponsored by the September 11 Anniversary Committee, the vigil included bagpipers from the Cambridge Fire Department to signal the start of the vigil.

Two of the iron beams from the collapsed World Trade Center Towers were included in the memorial near the Weeks Foot Bridge. “There was also a fire truck on the banks of the river and people paid homage to the memorial, consisting of flowers, photographs, and messages, beside it,” said Sushil Kumar G.

Emotions mixed

Many students noted that September 11 went on just like any other day at MIT. To others, it was a much more painful experience.

“Life went on. It was hard to sit back and reflect when I had my first 8.01 quiz that day too,” said Ami Yamamato ’06. “Even though Chancellor Clay had sent out e-mails telling us that the administration in Washington had raised the level of the terrorist alert warning, I felt free to go about my regular business as usual,” Taylor said.

“I’m from New York and through watching TV, I felt like I was almost reliving the day. Everything I was feeling from last year came rushing back,” said Sheila Tandon G. “MIT did a good job of providing many options in which people could remember the past, but also move on with the future.”