By the end of the day on Sept. 11, 2002, many West VirginiaUniversity students, employees and Morgantown residents said they felt a little better and a good bit stronger. A year of intense feelings melded into a day of caring, sharing and healing.
Close to 5,000 came with hands clasped to remember the victims and heroes of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at a candlelight vigil in Woodburn Circle. Hundreds of others took part in a symbolic tree planting near a temporary memorial wall set up outside the Downtown Campus Library. Some took part in prayer services while others listened to a panel discussion on an America forever changed.
In a moving sunset ceremony, a representative from Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity rang the bell from the armored cruiser USS West Virginia �€a campus tradition �€in memory of the nearly 3,000 victims who died a year ago and to honor those who rushed to save them. This was followed by a moment of silencebroken only by a lone bagpipe tribute of Amazing Grace.
President David C. Hardesty Jr. called forth members of the Armed Forces, firefighters, State, Morgantown and Campus Police, emergency medical personnel and volunteers, saying:”Many ordinary people became heroes in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks by giving their all to help others, often at great personal cost. Today, we have invited them to represent those who answered the call following last year’s attacks and all those who continue to protect us every day.”
In honor of these heroes, the WVU choral group Same Difference sang Wind Beneath My Wings and America the Beautiful. Spontaneously, as the sun slipped behind the Woodburn Hall clock tower, the audience began lighting their candles one by one, symbolizing that the spirit of America still shines brightly.
Every generation has a”defining moment,”Hardesty said, recalling that for his time it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and for others, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor. But defining moments have a way of”challenging us all to build lives reflecting the lessons we have learned from this tragedy, so let us accept that challenge by doing all that we can to foster peace in our world.”
The ceremony concluded with Let There Be Peace on Earth , reflecting the hope that peace could be fostered around the world.
The days observances began when the Woodburn Hall clock tower bells chimed for one minute at 8:46 a.m. �€nearly one year to the minute after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the WorldTradeCenter. Flags across campus flew at half staff.
About the same time people were already visiting the temporary Memorial Wall stretching 94 feet across the outside wall of the Downtown Campus Library; the memorial bore the names of the victims of Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa. Thousands of visitors throughout the day left ribbons, flowers, flags and other offerings there.
In the afternoon, WVU and Morgantown officials joined students in dedicating a Douglas fir, donated by the student body and planted on the Library grounds near the temporary memorial. President Hardesty, Student Government Association President Chris Gregory, Provost Gerald Lang and Morgantown City Manager Dan Boroff each tossed a shovelful of dirt around the trees trunk. It was later adorned in red, white and blue lights.
In presenting the tree to the University, Gregory said that in addition to being a day of remembrance, Sept. 11 was also”a day to celebrate rebirth, the rebirth of American spirit.”
“They wanted to weaken us, create hatred and division, and diminish our belief in this country and its freedoms,”Gregory said.”Instead, we have grown stronger, more caring and more patriotic.”
In his remarks, Hardesty remembered WVU ’s losses in the terrorist attacks and subsequent war on terrorism: alumni Chris Gray and Jim Samuel, who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center; and Staff Sgt. Gene Vance, a Morgantown resident and former WVU student who died May 19 in eastern Afghanistan when his National Guard unit came under fire from suspected al-Qaida or Taliban forces.
“The tree we are planting today will thrive on our campus for years to come as a living testament to our concern for the victims of Sept. 11 and the loved ones they left behind,”the president said.”Alive and growing, even in the darkest days of winter, it will remind us all that the spirit of those we love also lives on forever in our memories.”
Lang likened the evergreen to the WVU peace tree that stands between Martin and Elizabeth Moore halls. He also recounted the legend of the peace tree, an evergreen the Peacemaker gave to five Indian tribes as a symbol of the everlasting peace they had forged.
“People can commit acts of hatred and destruction, but they cannot overcome the resilience of the human spirit,”he said.”The tree we are planting today will live on as a symbol of that spirit.”
Boroff said the tree is”a living symbol”of the victims and heroes of 9-11 that now”stands small and fragile, but can grow to be 50 feet tall and more than 100 years old.”
A permanent bronze plaque will be placed near the tree which reads:”We RememberThe Spirit of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, lives in each of us. This tree is presented by the students of WVU . September 11, 2002.”
Earlier in the day, the Division of Public Administration sponsored a panel discussion that critiqued the Bush administrations policies since the terrorist attacks.
Those policies �€which include the Patriot Act, Department of Homeland Security and racial profiling �€threaten civil liberties of some citizens and alter the balance of power among the nations three governmental branches, the four panelists agreed.
All described the Patriot Act �€signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 26 �€as a”knee-jerk reaction”that gave sweeping new powers to both domestic law enforcement and international intelligence agencies and eliminated the checks and balances that previously gave courts the opportunity to ensure that these powers were not abused.
“This is basically a list of old conservative complaints that consistently moves decision-making from the judicial to the executive branch,”said public administration professor Gerald Pops.”I expect that it will ultimately found illegal and a violation of civil rights.”
Kareem W. Shora, legal adviser for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, also offered his ideas on racial profiling, saying that 314,000 men are pending for deportation from the United States, many of whom have been targeted because of their gender and country of origin.
Although there are no official allegations of racial profiling against federal agencies, there have been more than 84 incidences at U.S. airlines.
Otis Cox, a WVU sociology professor and retired FBI agent, said he had concerns with legislation to consolidate several agencies under one Department of Homeland Security and elevate the directors job to a Cabinet-level position within the administration.
“Im a little confused about what this bill is about,”Cox said.”Im not negative about it in the sense we dont have a need, because we have a need. I am negative in the fact that we havent done a lot of homework and are passing it too quickly.”
Thomas Bush, a special FBI agent in fugitive justice, acknowledged his fellow panelistsconcerns but reminded them the nation was in the midst of a global war against terrorism.
“We are at war, and acts that have happened and continue to happen have to be addressed,”he said.
Other 9-11 campus observances included a memorial service at the Department of Human Resources and prayer services at the Health Sciences Center and Ruby Memorial Hospital.
Campus lamppost banners colored the campus with the words”We Remember,”and a blood drive and service learning day are set for Thursday, Sept. 12.
In addition, a lecture series, arts programming and other educational forums are scheduled throughout the semester.