Sept. 21-27, 2001
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Students share in nation's sorrow

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Students share in nation's sorrow

By Rebecca Arrington

Many U.Va. students were in class when they learned of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon the morning of Sept. 11. One professor, after making the announcement, offered his cell phone and credit card to those who needed to call their loved ones. By lunchtime, TVs throughout Grounds were tuned to breaking news and surreal footage of planes crashing and the twin towers collapsing.

Needing to find ways to respond that seemed helpful, students began organizing — meetings, vigils, blood drives.

“I began receiving e-mails announcing different events” immediately after the news broke, said Patricia M. Lampkin, interim vice president for student affairs. To coordinate efforts, students agreed to meet at her office at 4:30 p.m. Alex Joyner, president of U.Va.’s United Ministry, was instrumental in coordinating Tuesday night’s inter-faith candlelight vigil, Lampkin said. Organized by Arab, Muslim, Christian and Jewish students, it “took place just three hours after the meeting in my office,” and was attended by some 4,000 members of the University community. It was the first of many student-coordinated events held this past week, she noted.

Just this summer, Lampkin’s office had developed a crisis response plan. Though a terrorist attack wasn’t one of the anticipated crises, Lampkin said the plan was fresh in her mind and helped in handling this situation.

A number of students have lost family members and friends, said Dean of Students Penny Rue, who noted that the largest percentage of U.Va. students are from the D.C.-Northern Virginia area, with the second largest concentration being from New York and New Jersey. “I know of two who have lost a parent, one who worked at the Pentagon, and the other who was on board the airplane that crashed into it,” she said.

Rue facilitated one of the 10 sessions held throughout Grounds Sept. 12 from 10 a.m. to noon that provided students and faculty with a common period for reflection and mourning. About 200 students attended her session in Old Cabell Auditorium. “Points of tension arose from students who want retaliation versus other students who hope [the country] will take a more thoughtful approach” in reacting to these attacks, Rue said. One young man, who had worn a sandwich board the day before that read, “fight force with force,” spoke, saying he couldn’t understand why others didn’t support his view, Rue recalled. He was followed on stage by another male student, who encouraged him to seek counseling to cope with his anger.

“It is important to allow a wide range of responses,” Lampkin said. “Everyone deals with things differently, and as long as we don’t judge responses, we learn from each other and gain strength,” she said. “I have never witnessed the true sense of community within the University that I have seen this past week. I believe we are all realizing that none of us can get through this alone.”

For Joyner, a U.Va. Ph.D. student, the “most powerful moment” occurred at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s inter-faith vigil. The candles were lit, “Amazing Grace” had just been sung, and the crowd of some 4,000 began to disperse when religious studies professors Vanessa Ochs, who is Jewish, and Abdulaziz Sachedina, who is Muslim, “clasped hands and exchanged looks” of mutual respect, concern and love for one another.

The United Methodist minister has also been “awed” by the way students he has worked with have “moved through the emotions of this week in a very deep and mature way.” It has taught him not to get lost in the minutiae of administrative details as he is witnessing the next round of peace vigils being planned by students in anticipation of what will come, he said.


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