Professor Vincent Scully had always disliked the architecture of the World Trade Center towers.
On Tuesday Scully got to one of the last slides in his Modern Architecture lecture and stood with a picture of the towers projected on a large screen behind him and about 400 students filling the seats in front of him.
As the famed art critic remembered the morning’s events, any architectural disagreement was all but forgotten.
“He got a little choked up,” Gabriela Salazar ’03 said. “He’d already planned the class and they just happened to be part of it. … It really moved him that there were these monuments that had been destroyed.”
Scully was not the only professor forced to face the implications of Tuesday’s horrific events. Even though classes continued Tuesday and Wednesday, students and professors confronted a changed world.
“We’ll pretend it’s a regular class,” Berkeley College Master John Rogers said before beginning his popular Milton lecture Wednesday. “But it is not. There may be people here who will be utterly distracted. That is OK.”
The approximately 400 people sitting in the Art Gallery’s lecture hall yesterday afternoon were not as eager to hear about the Cold War as they were just a week ago, when hordes of students tried to get into History professor John Gaddis’ popular class.
“Focus on the things that have not changed: faith in your family, your friends, your country,” Gaddis told his students. “What happened yesterday, Sept. 11, 2001, is going to be for your generation what Dec. 7, 1941 was for your grandparents generation. What Nov. 22, 1963 was for my generation. It is a defining moment.”
Professors sometimes turned to their areas of expertise to help students confront the terror.
In her Doomed Love seminar, English professor Annabel Patterson looked to literature in a search for answers.
“The question was, What can literature do in times like this?” Virgil Calejesan ’02 said.
Patterson read the class parts of “Holy Dying” by Jeremy Taylor, a work focusing on death.
Although one student began crying, Calejesan said he thought many students found it helpful to be “talking about death in general rather than death in specific events.”
While Patterson looked to literature in the wake of the horror, Geology and Geophysics professors Jay Ague and Jeffrey Park worked with science in their Natural Hazards class.
The professors talked about what the impact of the plane crashes might have registered on the Richter scale. They also analyzed the structure of the World Trade Center buildings, discussing why they collapsed when they did.
In the junior seminar for the American Studies major, the professors who teach the class changed Wednesday’s lesson plan and spent the time beginning to deal with the deadliest terrorist attack in American history.
“A lot of people simply told stories about how the event had affected them,” American Studies chair Jean-Christophe Agnew said. “We made some progress on that. But it’s going to be a long haul.”
Agnew said that although the syllabus will not change for the class, the students will be forced to look at the whole seminar from a new perspective.
While many professors and students talked about the disaster in class, some students chose not to attend classes at all.
“I didn’t want to distract my thoughts,” Austin Van ’03 said.
In the hours after Tuesday’s terror, professors and students together attempted to find a way to deal with the horrific attacks.
“We’re just all struggling through this,” Agnew said.