Beginning with a moment of silence and the tolling of the Healy bells, a vigil ceremony on Sunday commemorated the attacks of Sept. 11 through moments of silence, reflection and prayer.
At the memorial, held by Welcome Week, Hoyas for Troops and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, the bells rang at 8:46 a.m. to honor the lives lost in the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. Another moment of silence followed a second ringing of the bells at 9:03 a.m., marking the time a hijacked plane hit the second tower.
Personal reflections began around 9:30 a.m., when members of the campus community shared their personal stories. The ceremony paused again at 9:37 a.m. to honor those killed by the attack on the Pentagon.
Following the reflections, the Tunnel to Towers 5K, sponsored by Hoyas for Troops, began at 10:03a.m., the time that United Airlines flight 93 — originally intended to hit Washington, D.C. — crashed into a field in western Pennsylvania. The 266 registered runners followed a path that wove throughout campus in memoriam of New York fireman Stephen Siller, the uncle of graduate student Patrick Scullin(GRD ’12), who was killed as he tried to help people escape the scene of the attacks in lower Manhattan.
Before the run kicked off, Alejandro Zendejas (SFS ’14) spoke of how his small Texan town on the U.S-Mexico border was rocked by the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. He hoped to combat misunderstandings that he believes people often have about that day.
“I feel that there are two misperceptions … one — [that] even though we were really, really young … we don’t remember, but in reality we do,” he said. “The other misperception is that only people of a certain area were affected, but the whole nation was in shock or awe that day.”
Marilyn McMorrow, a visiting assistant professor with the School of Foreign Service, spoke of the overwhelming support she felt on campus the day of the attacks. She recalled watching from the Village A rooftops alongside students as the Pentagon burned across the Potomac. Soon after the strikes, she said, free phone banks were set up so that students could call their families. She spoke about the five interfaith services held that day — all attended by University President John J. DeGioia.
“The whole day was a day of total support of students on campus and of student support for one another,” McMorrow said.
Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, noted that while the tragedy initially put the nation into a tailspin, it ultimately inspired an overwhelming sense of unity.
“Ten years ago, terror and violence had [their] day,” he said. “Life and community and compassion will [have the last word].”
O’Brien also led the attendants in a prayer to honor those who lost their lives and to ask for peace for those still grieving.
Afterwards, Scullin, Siller’s nephew and a student in the Master of Arts Program in Conflict Resolution, told of how his uncle had just gotten off his night shift and was on his way to play golf with his three brothers when he heard on his fire department radio about the attacks.
Siller drove back into the city and ran through the closed Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to the scene of the destruction, where he gave his life helping others escape the scene. Siller left behind five children.
His family established the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in order to help other children who lost family members in the 9/11 attacks. Since its inception, the charity has built an orphanage in Staten Island, assisted victims of Hurricane Katrina and built ‘smart’ homes for quadruple amputee war veterans.
The Sunday vigil was a continuation of a weekend of remembrance begun on Friday, when students and faculty gathered to share prayers for those impacted by the attacks.
The prayer service, held in Gaston Hall, was co-sponsored by several Georgetown organizations and featured representatives from nine on-campus religious groups as well as from the Georgetown Interfaith Council.
“It is our faith [that] helps give meaning to the events of history, the events of our lives,” O’Brien said at the beginning of the ceremony.
The service featured readings and prayers from the different religious traditions, followed by a recitation of the names of Georgetown community members who were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. After a moment of silence in honor of the victims, DeGioia spoke to the crowd of Georgetown’s tradition of solidarity in times of crisis.