Remarks of President John S. Toll at the Washington College Service of Remembrance
Chestertown, MD, September 14, 2001 — No one in our country is untouched or unchanged by the vicious attack on innocent lives that took place in New York and Washington, and over the skies of Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
In the Washington College community, we are still learning the magnitude of the personal impact of this great tragedy. To the best of our knowledge, the father of one of our students is confirmed dead in the attack on the World Trade Center. Three other students have parents who worked in the World Trade Center, but who mercifully have been located, either safe, or in one case, in critical condition in a New York City hospital. A relative of one of our students was a pilot aboard one of the United Airline flights out of Boston. Yet another student has a brother who is a Marine guard at the Pentagon and is still missing. In addition, many, many members of our community know of friends and extended family that were lost in these attacks.
Today, in response to the President’s Proclamation, we join the nation and the world in a Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the victims of the terrorist attacks. Earlier today, the countries of the European Union paused to observe three minutes of silence. In Great Britain, the Queen and the Prime Minister joined a nation in mourning the loss of an estimated 500 British citizens in Tuesday’s attack. Indeed, the whole world has been touched and changed by these cowardly acts.
My personal emphasis has been to help those members of the College community whose family members are missing. But we have also responded with programs on campus every day for others in the community, so that people can come together to comfort each other.
It is my fervent belief that we not magnify the impact of the terrorists by allowing them to damage the College program severely. Let today's gathering also be an expression of hope. Let us remember that the human spirit is indomitable and cannot be crushed by the vicious hand of terror. We will continue the work of this community of learning, with hope that the wisdom we acquire will help bring about a lasting peace that will prevent this kind of crime against humanity from ever recurring.
As we reflect today on the lives of those who have perished, let us honor their memory by dedicating our labors to the pursuit of peace and wisdom.
Additional words from Reverend Peter Lai, Chaplain, Heron Point, Chestertown, MD
Almighty God, we ask that you fill this solemn moment with the majesty of your presence and fill our hearts with your love. Our hearts are saddened by the loss of the people who perished as a result of the attacks that took place three days ago. Today we remember and honor them as our heroes. Bring your comforting Spirit to those family members who are in deep despair and in great sorrow. Be with the rescue workers who act with such courage and determination. Guide them and protect them from danger.
For those of us who live today, we pray that this memorial service will inspire us to a greater commitment to you and our neighbors. May we be brave so that enemies who would deprive us of our freedom will not succeed. Give to our president and other leaders your wisdom as they have difficult decisions to make in the days ahead. Give us your wisdom as we try to find meaning in the midst of this horrible tragedy. Fill us with compassion so we can reach out to those in need.
Then as we leave this place, we will be renewed in our spirits with faith, hope and love and we know confidently that the people we honor today will not have died in vain.
In your holy name we pray. Amen.
Additional words from Board Chairman Jay Griswold
There is no question that there is evil in the world. As we reel from the devastation and loss of life in New York, in Washington, and in Pennsylvania, and these affronts to the symbols of a free democracy, we come to understand that the very fabric of our country has been torn. Just as the landscape of New York is changed, so America is changed. We have lost our innocence. We have come to a brutal awareness that we are not invulnerable to terrorist attacks on American soil.
Yet the spirit of the American people remains unflappable. Even in our tremendous sense of loss and sadness, we begin to take solace in the emerging stories that speak to our humanity. We find victories in each rescue of a fallen firefighter, in the messages recorded by hostages held in the skies, in acts of heroism as passengers attempted to wrest control of a plane from the hijackers, in the compassion shared between strangers in time of crisis.
We mourn with those who have suffered great and disastrous loss. All our hearts have been seared by the sudden and senseless taking of innocent lives. We pray for healing and for the strength to serve and encourage one another in hope and faith.
I urge you as you work through all of the emotions to reflect on the broad sweep of history. Much has happened to this country since 1782, tragic and triumphant. God bless Washington College, God bless America.