Davidson Community Gathers to Reflect on Terrorist Attacks
September 12, 2001
By Matt Garfield '04
Over 400 students packed three floors of the Alvarez College Union on Tuesday night for a campus-wide service to mourn the victims of the terrorist attacks and to try to make sense of what happened.
President Bobby Vagt opened the service by calling for students to pull together at a time when hope seems lost.
"We're here tonight because of an emotional and spiritual need to be together," he said. "Our hope is not only that we're here...but here together."
Associate professor of political science Ken Menkhaus spoke about the political context of the attacks, and about their ramifications for the college-age generation.
"I suspect that for your generation, today is going to be that day where you always remember where you were standing," he said, comparing the magnitude of the events to that of John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and the moon landing in 1969.
Menkhaus said the threat of terrorism is "much more elusive and much harder to deal with" than even the most powerful of foreign aggressors, because it is often impossible to anticipate when it will occur.
"Terrorism is a mixture of violence and theatre," he said. "It's designed to produce in you a feeling of vulnerability and unease."
Religion professor Bill Mahoney told students simply to "turn to your hearts."
"This is a time that calls for great integrity, honesty, dignity. This is where the heart lies," he said.
"Underneath the fear and anger is a great wisdom. Each one of you has within your heart fathomless wisdom."
The floor was then opened up to students and faculty wishing to offer their reflections on the day. Some told of friends and relatives directly affected by the attacks. Some spoke of their desire for peace and unity.
Perhaps political science professor Susan Roberts summed up the evening best, referring to a Union dedication celebration scheduled for Thursday but cancelled due to the tragedy.
"The Union will not be officially dedicated this week," she said. "But tonight we have dedicated it in the name of peace."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson is currently engaged in "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.