GU Life GU Faces Time of Crisis As Community
By Tim Haggerty Hoya Staff Writer
Charles Nailen/The Hoya The billows of smoke could be clearly seen from Georgetown’s campus, as in this view from the Village A rooftops 15 minutes after the crash of American Airlines Flight 77. Employees of this building a
Averting their eyes from her anguish and trying, wishing, not to hear her cries, students treaded past her and through the Leavey Center foyer. At 10:30 a.m. some went in and others went out, caught in a swell of chaos so absolute that it did not seem like chaos at all.
She just stood there, her blond hair flapping with every painful shudder, her right hand stabbing the air with a metallic cell phone. Her anger, for now, she directed at the phone, “I can’t get them. I can’t talk to them,” she cried.
A bookstore employee tried to calm her, but for the next 24 hours there was little real calm on a campus where few people were more than a friend or relative away from someone working at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.
In other words, if you don’t know someone working at one of those buildings, chances are that you know someone who does.
Indeed, the calamity struck close to home. The thick, gray smoke pouring from the Pentagon was visible from most buildings on campus, the only cloud on an otherwise immaculate late-summer day.
By 10:15 a.m., the flag on Copley Lawn was at half-staff. The north tower of the World Trade Center had collapsed. The Pentagon was hit. The campus knew that America was under attack, but did not know if the attack was over.
Students huddled in front of every television on campus – from dorm rooms and lounges to the credit union and the career center.
Networks were reporting that at least one plane remained lost. Networks were reporting that another hijacked plane was minutes away from its intended target: Washington, D.C. networks were reporting bombs at the White House, the Capitol and the State Department.
Clearer facts would only partly ease tensions. Cell phone signals were dead and phone lines were overloaded in Washington, D.C., and New York. It would be hours before many could connect with their friends and family.
The university responded quickly to the events of the morning. ost 10:15 a.m. classes were either canceled or spent watching news reports. University officials canceled all classes after noon.
In his first letter to the university community after the attacks, University President John J. DeGioia called Tuesday a “tragic day around the nation.”
“Although we have no reason to be alarmed about threats to Georgetown or our campus community, I write to let you know that we’re taking some immediate steps to address your needs and ensure flexibility,” he wrote.
The Department of Public Safety immediately tightened security. Officers stationed at every campus entrance checked bags and demanded photo identification from anyone trying to enter campus.
Increased security was visible off campus as well. Military police and their camouflaged, armored vehicles were positioned at most intersections along M Street. Armored cars drove up and down M Street while fighter jets patrolled the skies over the city. Helicopters with gun and missile turrets buzzed past campus along the Potomac River.
On campus, efforts to cope with the attacks’ effects and begin the healing process were underway by 11 a.m. Campus ministries held prayer services throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, with both interfaith services and faith-specific services.
Yesterday, religious and community leaders from the Washington, D.C., community gathered in Gaston Hall for an interfaith prayer service. The attendees included Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony Williams and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop of Washington, D.C.
“We must never forget that it is `In God We Trust,'” McCarrick said. “We know that he loves us and that he will see us through these dark days.”
Shortly after the attacks Tuesday, several students scrawled “Say A Prayer” in five-foot tall letters on university sidewalks. In front of the Healy building, they wrote, “Put Down the Phone, Say a Prayer.”
Students hung American flags from dorm windows on Tuesday and yellow ribbons on rails and poles throughout campus on Wednesday.
When classes resumed Wednesday, teachers were urged by university officials to postpone tests and quizzes scheduled for this week.
Also Wednesday and Thursday, GUSA set up stations at various locations around campus where volunteers distributed information about events and services being held.
They collected donations for the Red Cross and handed out yellow ribbons in tribute to the victims of the attacks and their families.
University and GUSA officials also distributed information to community members wishing to donate blood. On Tuesday, officials at Georgetown University Hospital were so overwhelmed with people coming to donate blood that they sent an E-mail urging people to stay clear of the hospital.
Through most of the day and into the evening on Wednesday, faculty members from the College and the School of Foreign Service held a teach-in, where they discussed the attacks from their professional and personal, perspectives. They held a similar event with Linguistics Professor Deborah Tannen and SFS Dean Robert Gallucci.
“One needs to be raising questions about what is really going on,” Government Professor Charles King said during the discussions.
Officials said the dialogues would provide a healthy and safe forum for discussion and questions as students and faculty attempted to understand and give perspective to the day’s events.
But the healing process has just begun, according to Charles Tartaglia of the Georgetown University Counseling and Psychiatric Services.
“You simply have to endure. It runs it course in due time,” he said. “People get over things, but that doesn’t mean they get over them completely.”
Grief counselors set up stations in New South, where officials instituted an open-door policy that allowed students and community members to come in without using meal plans or cash.
“People may never feel as smugly secure as they had been,” Tartaglia said. “That would be healthy.”