As the wind on Cross Campus Saturday night threatened to extinguish the flames lit in remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001, students shielded their candles and drew support from groups of friends.
It was a smaller gathering than in years past, the raw emotions provoked by the tragedy fading with time. But memories of Sept. 11, 2001, inevitably color the college experiences of members of the Class of 2005, whose undergraduate careers at Yale began as the towers fell.
“It was our first week. What a way to start college,” said Nicholas Marchitto ’05 as he stood on Cross Campus, where shocked students had gathered en masse his freshman year to pour out their grief.
Separated from friends and family and in an unfamiliar environment — in many cases living alone for the first time — 2001’s freshmen, the Class of 2005, found themselves forced to turn to their new teachers and classmates for sympathy and camaraderie on Sept. 11, less than a week into fall term classes.
It was, for most, a bewildering situation; classes met and professors lectured, but focus was turned elsewhere.
“People still didn’t really know each other, but in a time of crisis, people had to rely on each other for strength, support and comfort,” Connie Chan ’05 said. “The fact that we were physically on Yale’s campus, and that this is one of the most historically significant events, would have to shape our class.”
Being away from parents, siblings and old friends at such a critical time expedited the formation of friendships and class identity that would last the next three years, many seniors said. Sarah Heiman ’05 said the terrorist attacks drew her suitemates together.
Amy Berken ’05 said she remembers catching snippets of cell phone conversations about plane crashes on her way back from her first class that day.
“It was a difficult way to start a new chapter in my life,” she said. “It definitely made it very difficult [because] I was away from home and away from my family.”
Other members of the Class of 2005 said they felt the event impacted their academic experiences at Yale more than their social lives. Quickly, the University absorbed the new political climate, tailoring classes and panel discussions to a changed world.
“Academically, it had a huge effect on the whole atmosphere at Yale,” said Phil Kenney ’05, who attended Saturday’s memorial service.
Sept. 11, 2001 also created a politically divided campus, said Stephanie Kissel ’05, who spoke at the vigil.
Some seniors, however, said they did not think Sept. 11 impacted their class any more than it shocked the rest of the nation.
“I think it was cohesive [for] our country,” Brendan Black ’05 said. “I would feel just as bonded if it was senior year of high school.”