On Sept. 14, across the country and in many parts of the world, people emerged from their homes to participate in local vigils and memorial services. This show of support for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. served to commemorate President Bush’s declaration of a national day of mourning.
A memorial service was held in Plaza Vaquero, bringing students together for a moment of peace. The solemn event, which began at 11:30 a.m., included speeches by Dr. John Davitt, President of GCC and ASGCC President Dan Wengert. In an effort to facilitate matters, Dr. Davitt instructed faculty members to either postpone or shorten their classes so students could attend the full duration of the ceremony.
Plans to address the tragedy began forming as early as Sept. 12, however, the chaotic nature of the situation prevented preliminary discussions from yielding any immediate results.
The next day, student leaders intent on vocalizing their emotions, put their efforts together in organizing a proper tribute.
“By the time Thursday came around, nobody else around campus was stepping up to the plate,” Wengrt said. ‘So we felt it became our responsibility, as student leaders, to address the students.”
In his speech, Wengert expressed extreme remorse for the victims and their families. He also encouraged students to try and continue with their lives, proposing education as a healthy diversion.
Students appeared grateful for the chance to express their remorse. For the past few days, thoughts and emotions had been understandably confused. The ceremony served, not only as an opportunity to demonstrate support, but also as an outlet for their grief.
“It was really hard to see those images on the news,” said student Dana Price, referring to the collapse of the towers in New York. “The least we can do is give the victims a moment of our time.”
The mood throughout the ceremony was dominated by a sense of reverence. However, isolated incidents of indifference managed to permeate the warm embrace of the crowd. Some disturbances were minor and only slightly offensive such as students racing to class, apparently too busy to remember the lost victims. Unfortunately there were also a few blatant displays of ignorance that left many heads shaking.
“I heard some kids behind us joking around,” said Price. “When I turned to look at them they just smiled.”
Interviews with lingering student body members elicited a wide range of response. One group of girls stood on the lawn carrying a sign of support for the U.S to stand as one powerful nation. Clearly moved by the ceremony, they struggled through tears of pain and frustration to express their thoughts.
“It just doesn’t seem like we’re doing enough,” said student Erion Vorpe. “Other schools have established on-campus memorials and held candlelight vigils.”
Efforts are being made to accommodate requests for additional activities. GCC will hold an on-campus blood drive in response to the blood shortage affecting hospitals nationwide. The drive, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9-11, will be held in the J.W Smith Student Conference Center.
The cry for more action is indicative of the passion behind opinions expressed following the event. Student comments were clearly backed by fierce beliefs and careful observation.
GCC students Byron Crump and David Riley, who arrived shortly after the ceremony’s closing remarks, acknowledged the importance of publicly recognizing the tragedy.
“It’s important to give up the proper respect,” Riley said. “This is a time to forget about petty differences.”
Crump and Riley have noticed that people on campus appear to be friendlier than usual, however, both are wary of how long the elevated camaraderie will last.
“In a couple of weeks, people are going to go back to their old ways,” said Crump. “They’re just not going to care as much.”
Crump’s predictions are rooted in his observation that GCC lacks a strong sense of community. As a commuter school, students spend less time on campus and therefore lack the motivation to get to know their peers. Even after a crisis hits and everyone is affected, it’s unrealistic to expect instant connections to develop between students.
The issue may be a mute one for although school pride appears to be declining, national pride continues to enjoy a steep rise. Throughout the country, signs of hope wave in the wind, as cars affixed with American flags pass on the streets. Politicians disregard their respective parties in order to strengthen the government’s infrastructure. And at GCC, diverse groups of young men stand poised for action, ready to take that call from the armed forces to join in a battle against terrorism.
Crump and Riley were among those prepared to fight. They speculated that the situation was just going to intensify and noted that the U.S had never experienced anything like this before.
“We’ve never been invaded in this manner,” Riley said. “Its only going to get worse.”