'We Are One Community, One World'

'We Are One Community, One World'

In the wake of terror and tragedy, Boston College draws upon its faith, courage and friendships

Tuesday, September 11: It promised to be a glorious New England early-autumn day, with blue skies and mild temperatures. With the fall semester barely a week old, Boston College settled into the familiar routine of classes, faculty meetings, student club gatherings and the myriad other formal and informal activities that mark an American college campus.

Then came news of terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, and all that was familiar and routine was suddenly gone.

In the hours and days that followed, the Boston College community talked, prayed, sang, wept and worked, both individually and collectively, to offer help and seek answers.

As the Gasson Tower bell chimed that Tuesday at noon, a young man stood among the crowd gathered at O'Neill Plaza, head bowed, eyes closed and his hands clasped tightly, as if in prayer, around his cell phone. Every few seconds, he raised a hand to daub at his tearful eyes.

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, with Vice President for University Mission and Ministry Joseph Appleyard, SJ, celebrates Sunday's Mass of the Holy Spirit. The focus of the event - traditionally held at Catholic universities to commemorate the start of the academic year- was changed so as to offer prayers for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and their families. (Photo By Mike Mergen)
Around him, hundreds and hundreds of students, faculty, administrators, staff and other members of the Boston College community waited for the start of a special University prayer service offered for those touched by the devastating events in New York City and Washington, DC, that morning.

Although the service had been announced barely an hour before, the plaza quickly became filled, with students - many visibly upset - embracing one another, speaking on cell phones to family and friends, or sitting and standing quietly.

Yet even as people continued to gather, a general hush prevailed in the plaza, and deepened when the tower bell struck. On the right-hand side of the plaza, a male student in a Boston College baseball cap stood with his arms wrapped around a female companion, who in turn gently stroked the back of another young woman next to her.

Shortly after the bell finished tolling, Director of Campus Ministry James Erps, SJ, stepped to the dais mounted on a small stage in front of O'Neill Library, and welcomed those who had come together for support, understanding and comfort.

"This is a day of sorrow," said Fr. Erps. "We have all been horrified by the loss of life, and livelihood, and by the pain and suffering of innocent people."

Fr. Erps asked for prayers to "bless and strengthen" the rescue workers, police and fire fighters working to save lives at the scene of the tragedies.

"Take into Your loving arms those who have lost their lives," said Fr. Erps as he concluded his prayer. "May we find our hope and solid ground in You."

Campus Minister Rev. Howard McLendon affirmed the power of faith as a source of strength in such times of fear and uncertainty: "God alone is my rock and my salvation."

The following members of the Boston College community are known to have died in last week's terrorist attacks:

*John Cahill, CSOM '66 - husband of Sharon O'Carroll Cahill '76.
*Joseph J. Coppo Jr. - Father of Joseph Coppo, '04.
*Karleton D. Fyfe - husband of Haven Fyfe, GSSW '98
*Peter Hanson, Susan Hanson and daughter Christine Hanson - Cousin of Boston College Police Officer Patrick Rose and his wife Karen, '92 and daughter Kimberly, '02.
*Daniel W. McNeal, '94 - Former resident assistant and president of the Residence Hall Association
*Christopher Mello - Son of Douglas Mello, '65 and Mary Ellen Mello, '68. *John J. Murray, CSOM '90.
*John Ogonowski (pilot of American Airlines Flight no. 11) - Husband of Margaret Lavalle Ogonowski, '76.
*Patrick J. Quigley - Brother-in-law of Asst. Prof. James Fleming. SJ (LSOE). *Frederick Rimmele III - Brother of Karen Rimmele Connors, '92.
*Madeline Amy Sweeney (flight attendant, American Airlines Flight no. 11) - Sister-in-law of former BC and Boston Bruins hockey standout Robert Sweeney '86.

After a minute of silence, Campus Minister Kate Leavey led students from the Liturgical Arts Group in singing "Amazing Grace." Many in the crowd, undergraduates, priests and police officers alike, could be seen singing along; others stared straight ahead, or comforted a nearby friend.

When we've been here 10,000 years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, called the events of the day "overwhelming," but said the Boston College community would be sustained through faith and its bonds with one another.

"We will get through what we have to get through," said Fr. Leahy. "I believe in the goodness of people, and that it is in times of evil when you see the best in people."

He echoed the calls for prayers to help all those touched by the disasters, as well as for calm and understanding.

"In spite of this tragedy, we are one community, one world," said Fr. Leahy. "We must keep working against hatred, terrorism and sin, and remain respectful of all."

Afterwards, small groups of students lingered in the plaza, some continuing to dial cell phones, others talking amongst themselves as they tried to sort out what had happened - and what might happen in the days and weeks to come.

A group of students recounted how they had first learned of the disaster that morning. Andrea Fox '02 of Sandy Spring, Md., said her alarm "went off and the news was right there." She quickly called her family, who live approximately half-an-hour outside Washington, DC, and made sure all was well.

Meredith Millet '02, a native of Lafayette, NJ, also had talked with her family. "We talked, and then we cried for a few minutes," she said.

As a member of the Liturgy Arts Group, Jeff Glass '02 has often performed at campus Masses and memorial services. But nothing compared to Tuesday's event, he said: "It's like a bad movie that doesn't end."

But, added the Atlanta native, "You have to step up when something like this happens. We're here to lead the ministry through music, to speak to the spirit of the BC community."

-Sean Smith  

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