For the first time this year, the Yale day did not commence with the honking and chanting of striking workers. Instead, Thursday’s clear and relatively peaceful morning was eerily reminiscent of the same date two years ago, though much has changed since then.
On the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, various vigils were held around campus for the Yale community to gather, to think, and to remember
Vigils began at 8:30 a.m. on Beinecke Plaza, where students, professors and members of the community gathered to hear representatives of various religious groups, including those from the Slifka Center and the University Chaplain’s Office. Even some strikers took part, turning their “On Strike” signs around for the duration of the meeting.
Observances continued throughout the day, with readings in Battell Chapel at noon and a candlelight vigil at 7:00 p.m. on Beinecke Plaza. There, the Baker’s Dozen performed and four people spoke, including New Haven Associate Fire Chief Ron Dumas and Yale Chaplain Reverend Frederick Streets. At the vigil’s closing, a number of students read the names of the 2,998 victims, including 343 fire fighters.
Yet the turnout at both vigils was unexpectedly small.
“It was surprising there weren’t more people,” Ruth Kelley ’05 said. “But [the vigil] was tastefully simple and good about letting people leave before reading the names.”
Attendees said the small turnout could be explained by the time that has elapsed since the attacks. Students said they felt a sense of distance from the events by the time of this second anniversary.
“I think everyone observes it in their own way,” Aaron Zelinsky ’06 said. “There’s definitely a feeling of being more removed now.”
Giovanna Masci ’04 said the strike on campus may have contributed to students’ lack of participation.
“There’s so much stuff going on, with the strike and all, that people are not aware of what’s going on, but that isn’t to say this isn’t important,” Masci said. “I think people are more like ‘Wow, I can’t believe it’s been that much time.'”
Students said remembrance of the attacks did not figure strongly into their days, and was not a subject of conversation in class or with friends.
“I had three classes today and only one of my professors mentioned it,” Kelley said. “Last year’s vigil was a lot bigger and the mood was a lot more somber, but I think that’s just because it’s two years since.”
Jenny Scharf ’06 said she felt a sharp departure from the events and atmosphere of last year’s anniversary.
“This year there have been no terrorist warnings like there were last year on the anniversary of Sept. 11,” Scharf said. “Now, it’s all about computer viruses.”
Scharf said she found more conversation about the events of Sept. 11 among professors than among peers. In Scharf’s “Social Psychology” class, psychology professor Richard Eibach expressed his discomfort about conducting class on the anniversary of the attacks. However, Eibach said he held class because social psychology deals with how different social situations affect emotion. Eibach said the attacks have a lasting relevance on his students’ lives.
“It’s still a raw event in that it only happened two years ago,” Eibach said. “You looks around the world and see the same problems, and sometimes getting worse, like in the Middle East, in Israel, with the suicide bombings — But we’ll be dealing with topics very relevant to this. In today’s class we talked about how ordinary people are elevated to becoming agents of evil, which is relevant to understanding suicide bombings.”
Eibach offered an explanation as to why conversation about the anniversary was not prominent on campus this year.
“It may even be that people have tried to push it into the past,” Eibach said. “Perhaps this year, dealing with so much, the labor strike on top of everything else, students are having a hard enough time remaining focused on the content of the courses, and it’s possible some are trying to deliberately avoid the topic.”