Nearly 3,000 students silently converged on Cross Campus last night to commemorate the tragedies of yesterday’s terrorist attacks.
Yale President Richard Levin and University Chaplain Frederick Streets organized the largest of a series of vigils held on and around campus Tuesday evening. Students pressed between Berkeley’s north and south courtyards, from Sterling Memorial Library to Calhoun College, their faces lit by candles and their voices hushed with respect. Levin greeted the community solemnly, speaking from the library’s front steps.
“I have always known this to be an extraordinary community, and to see all of you this evening is only to confirm what I have believed,” Levin said. “We not only grieve for victims of this tragedy, but we suffer with those who are still uncertain of the fates of their family members and friends.”
Levin urged members of the community to support one another, and not to jump to easy answers.
“We must not rush to judgement,” Levin said. “We do not yet know who was responsible for these attacks, but we should remember that it was the work of individuals — not the work of a people, a race, or a unified nation.”
Levin also discussed the need to donate blood, and told students where and how they could help. He was followed by Streets, who led the assembled in a prayer.
“Life for all of us has been changed forever by the events of this day,” Streets said before reading a prayer for compassion, understanding and community.
When Streets ended, he and Levin joined the standing crowd and the bells of Harkness Tower began to play Ronald Barnes’ “A Somber Pavan.” Those gathered remained in nearly absolute silence for over five minutes before quietly trailing away, many to catch President Bush’s televised national address at 8:30 p.m.
“I was moved by the turnout,” Sam Yebri ’03 said. “I was impressed by the unified feeling of our community. I was also impressed that Levin stressed that this was an act of individuals, not a race or state.”
Earlier in the evening on the New Haven Green, city Christian and Jewish leaders held a multi-denominational vigil. A crowd of about 60 arrived at 5:30 p.m. and expanded to over 100 individuals and families before 6 p.m. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. was one of the first to arrive and receive a wax candle wrapped with red paper to commemorate the innocent blood shed Tuesday.
The lights in the churches on the Green and in Battell will be on as late as need be,” said Rev. Louise Higginbotham from the United Church on the Green. She went on to explain why Islam was not represented in the vigil.
“There were attempts to contact the Muslim community,” Higginbotham said. “In my conversations with Muslim women, they have said they are afraid because they look different when they go out on the street.”
The Slifka Center held a vigil at 7:00 p.m. in the Slifka Chapel, drawing roughly 100 members of Yale’s Jewish community, including Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg. Rabbi James Ponet led the group in reciting psalms in both Hebrew and English, and students read poems and said prayers for the victims.
The vigil at the Afro-American Cultural Center drew nearly 45 people. The members of the church opened up with a reading from Psalms and praise and worship songs. People sang through tears throughout the vigil.
After the reading and singing the floor was opened for thoughts from the congregation. Students talked about their pain, relief and anguish.
Stephanie Webb ’03 said she thought the upbeat songs were appropriate for the occasion.
“I think that people need something positive to think about,” Webb said. “People died, but there is still plenty to praise God for. You praise God that you’re alive, that your family is alive. There are things to be happy about.”