With prayers and music and reflections on the decade that has passed, Princeton University marked the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks with a solemn ceremony yesterday.
Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley recalled scenes from New York days after the attacks.
“I remember the stillness south of 14th Street. I remember the pungent odor of smoldering buildings. I remember the faces of firemen covered in grey dust as they emerged exhausted from looking for survivors,” Bradley said.
“And in the weeks after 9/11, New York was a different place. People seemed more open, more vulnerable, more in need of human connection,” he said.
Such a sense of connection, he said, is vital to solve the nation’s problems.
“We all need to say in touch with the goodness within each of us,” he said. “It can be called forth by a leader or by a tragedy, but we will have truly changed only when it can be called forth every day, in our work and our lives. That is the best way to honor September 11. We commemorate not the tragedy, but the goodness that the tragedy called forth.”
Bradley was one of five speakers at the university’s ceremony on the Cannon Green that drew several hundred people despite the threat of rain.
Like Bradley, other speakers focused on the future and the importance of human connection and an openness to others.
“It’s not enough to honor those who died and comfort those who mourn.” Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman said. “We must recommit ourselves to insuring that hatred and intolerance do not find fertile ground in our midst.”
University philosophy professor Kwame Anthony Appiah said amidst the changes globalization brings, people can either retreat into the forces of the familiar, or they can “keep their ears open to the rhythms of new identities and new ideas.”
“We rightly think back on the toll extracted by the forces of fanaticism and division,” he said. “But we must also think ahead to the how we might conjure the forces of amity and union.”
Princeton alumna Chloe Wohlforth of the class of 2007, who lost her father in the attacks, recalled his passion for Princeton University and the loss felt since his death.
“Although the sharp feeling of loss will not go away, it will prompt us to find light in the darkness,” she said. “We live every day for our loved ones as if they are still here.”
Princeton Clergy Association Interfaith Service
The Princeton Clergy Association held an interfaith service at the Princeton University Chapel in the evening, and began the service by recognizing emergency responders in the local community.
“It is very important that we come together as an interfaith community to nurture the bonds between us,” said the Rev. Alison Boden, dean of the chapel. “Those bonds were challenged in the aftermath of 9/11. It brought out the worst in a few, and the best in most. Many selflessly gave assistance to those in crisis, comforting neighbors and strangers.”
As we move in to the future, she said it is an opportunity to choose afresh who we will be as people: “We need to choose life, choose respect, and choose community.”
About 500 people attended the service that included readings from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions.
Rabbi Adam Feldman of the Jewish Center of Princeton talked about the importance of memory and hope in the Jewish tradition.
“We are a people of memory, and we honor the memory of our loved ones,” he said. “We hope for a better tomorrow, a world of peace and serenity for all of God’s children.”
Imam Sohaib Sultan, coordinator of Muslim life at the university, recalled the friends he lost in the World Trade Center attacks.
“The grief we share from that day is a unified grief, a unified sadness. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, all died that day,” Sultan said. “This dichotomy of us versus them is an utterly false dichotomy. We are one people, one world, one humanity. We have to learn to live together in a world made up of difference.”
“After 10 years, this world is in need of healing,” he said. “This kind of (divided) world we live in can no longer go on.”