Scripture, song, and silence

Posted by Julia Leef

This Sunday nearly 50 students and faculty members gathered together to remember and pay their respects to the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The service was held at Wilson Chapel and led by Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Rick Chrisman, director of religious and spiritual life at the college. Cellist Alexandra Guest '14 performed selections from Bach.

Those in attendance, including President Philip Glotzbach, listened as Chrisman spoke of the loss suffered on 9/11, quoting alternatively from the Bible, a passage from Hindu scripturep, and the Quran. It was a very quiet affair, as Chrisman continuously paused so everyone could either take a moment of silence or listen as Alexandra played.

Absent was any discussion of more political facets of the tragedy, as Chrisman later noted.

"This day is not about patriotism," Chrisman said. "It's about coping with devastation and coping with the realization that we can be hurt." He added that he had almost decided not to hold this service, thinking that the day should be reserved for the families' grief, stating that this grief was very different from the feelings of those who were not directly affected. "In a way, this day is for [the families]," he said.

Guest, whom Chrisman contacted through the music department, said that in addition to Bach being her favorite composer, she felt that the selections she chose possessed the appropriate tone for the evening.

"It wasn't overly sad, and the last piece that I selected had a more uplifting feel." This choice of ending the service on a hopeful note was something that both Guest and Chrisman agreed upon.

At the end of the service, Chrisman requested that everyone leave the chapel in silence before gathering again outside. Even once outside, most students remained quiet, some thanking Chrisman for the service before leaving.

Later that night from 9:30 to 11 p.m. Chrisman hosted a showing of the documentary "Beyond Belief," in the Davis Auditorium. The film follows the lives of two women who were pregnant at the time they lost their husbands in the 9/11 attacks and later reached out to Afghanistan widows through the organization Beyond the 11th.

Roughly 35 students were in attendance and before leaving some voiced their immediate reactions to the film. Among the reflections of the students were a reconsideration of "the enemy abroad" and how different America is from a third world nation such as Afghanistan.

"The movie hit me at several levels, showing how the widows coped with their grief," Chrisman said. "How tricky it is to try to help someone when you don't live their lives, and how very important it is to express feelings of compassion and to act on them."

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