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Remarks at Memorial Service for September 11

President John T. Casteen III
September 14, 2001

Is any force greater than human cruelty? For our survival, we must believe that the answer is yes.

We gather here today in terrible sorrow, but also in abiding hope. We mourn on this day the unbearably many dear lives – Americans, Bangladeshis, citizens of this nation and of other nations around the globe lost on the morning of Sept. 11 – not while engaged in hostile activity, but instead while engaged in the first hours of what began as a normal working day.

We may mourn America's innocence in the face of terrorism and perhaps our lost or damaged sense of security within our own boundaries and our newfound awareness of invulnerability lost in those attacks; We feel common agony in this week when evil might seem to overwhelm goodness.

But under this sadness, which is the sadness of death, lies a determined "yes" within all of our hearts and minds, whatever our personal loss, whatever our home town or native land—an affirmation that is an expression of faith in human goodness -- a vote for life.

This has been the message of the vigils, the teach-ins, the quiet discussions in classrooms and offices and dormitories and libraries and laboratories and hospital corridors throughout these days when we have together felt the agony of those whose lives are now extinguished and their surviving families and colleagues and friends and neighbors.

What more resounding vote for life might there be than today's gatherings at this hour in houses of worship and places public and private across the land and in nations around the globe where these agonies are shared as a common human agony?

Here, students, faculty, staff, members of United Ministries, our neighbors and friends are gathered today – as we have been gathered repeatedly when words were to be said or compassion expressed since early Tuesday morning. We come from all over this nation, from all parts of the globe, from many different faith communities.

We gather to affirm that love is greater than hate; that friendship is stronger than enmity; good is stronger than evil -- that tolerance for difference is the way to peace, that working together to build rather than to destroy is our maker's purpose for our lives.

We see on television the ash that now buries the streets of lower Manhattan, and we know that we see a graveyard. Yet the sky above is blue, life uptown goes on, and people continue to work, to build, to love – babies are born, healing (physical and spiritual) continues, assertions of compassion and human kindness and the continuity of life itself draw us back together.

And we understand that we were made in the image of a creator, not a destroyer. Today we affirm that together we will rebuild what hate has destroyed, and that what we build anew we will build better. Today we raise our voices to say yes to life.

One person alone is weak. Together, let us be strong. Today is our national day of prayer and remembrance. I ask you to stand now and either pray with me or remember in your own way those who have died so horribly, those who survive and merit our compassion and human kindness, and all those who share our conviction that human virtue, civilization, goodness, and the values that accompany these signs of our common value endure, and to attest the triumph of good over evil.