Braving gusts of wind that threatened to extinguish their flickering candle flames, more than 400 people gathered on Cross Campus last night to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history.
Yale President Richard Levin delivered a stirring speech at the candlelight vigil before prayers and poems were read by members of the Yale community.
The event capped off a day of somber reflection that began at 8:46 a.m. Wednesday morning with the bells of Yale’s carillon ringing exactly one year after the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. The bells tolled again last night to end the day of remembrance.
In between, University events included faculty discussion panels, concerts and memorial services.
History professor John Gaddis, who was one of the organizers of the day’s events, said he was pleased with the contemplation he saw across campus.
“None of us knew what to expect a year ago, ” Gaddis said. “[But] today was everything I hoped it would be.”
At 9 p.m. a somber crowd gathered as Mitchell and Ruff played a slow jazz piece.
Levin began his speech at the vigil by invoking the candlelight vigil held last year on Sept. 11 and stressed that the event was a time of reaffirmation as a community, where people could gather to express “the grief and fear we shared.”
He emphasized the importance of broad tolerance and ended by calling on the audience “to wrestle with the questions of our day.”
“Grateful for the freedom we enjoy in this University and in this nation, let us continue the search for light and truth,” Levin said.
Several members of the Yale community then read a variety of short pieces, including an excerpt from a T.S. Eliot poem and prayers for peace from various religious traditions. As the ceremony moved toward its end, Whim ‘n Rhythm sang “Amazing Grace,” and Streets offered a benediction.
In closing, the stately tones of the carillon brought the day full circle.
Hemesh Rama ’06 said he found the vigil very tasteful.
“I didn’t think it was overdone,” Rama said. “It was nice and simple.”
Jerusalem native Diala Shamas ’06 said the day was very different from what she would have experienced at home.
“People would have probably been more critical,” Shamas said. “There wouldn’t have been sort of this general acceptance of ‘we all have to go to the vigil,’ with no questioning about it.”
Cynthia Farrar, who along with Gaddis planned the day’s events as the culmination of the yearlong “Democracy, Security and Justice” series, said that a day of remembrance was necessary.
“It seemed that to us that Yale needed to do something for the anniversary, ” Farrar said. “[But] it can’t possibly bring closure.”
The ceremony also included readings by several Yale students, professors, and employees.