On a day when people across the nation and around the world commemorated the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the University observed the tragedy Wednesday with a host of memorial services.
As organizers had planned, the day's events took on a somber and low-key tone. Attendance at most of the events was high, including several hundred people who attended the noon memorial service in front of the Chapel.
The observances began with a tribute at the Duke University Museum of Art. Dean of the Chapel Will Willimon delivered an invocation, followed by remarks from President Nan Keohane and Aimee Molloy, Trinity '94, who discussed an exhibit of photographs taken of spontaneous artistic memorials.
"Today we remember the Duke alumni who died in the attacks, and the tens of thousands of others who were affected by those events," Keohane said. "Today we salve wounds, seek closure, vent, attempt to understand--and today we stand together."
At 8:46 a.m., a Chapel bell chimed once, signaling the exact time the first plane hit the World Trade Center last year. The solitary bell served as a poignant reminder of the Sept. 11 events, catching most people off-guard at first, but becoming more anticipated as the morning went on. The bell was rung again five times.
Later, in the West-Edens Link Quadrangle, the University paid tribute to the six alumni who died in the attacks by planting six magnolia trees and ringing a Chapel bell six more times.
The memorial services continued at noon, with another ceremony in front of the Chapel sponsored by Duke Student Government and the Foundation for the Defenses of Democracies, honoring the heroes of the rescue effort last year.
Keohane set a somber but hopeful tone with her opening remarks. "On this occasion of national remembrance, we relive last year's grief, patriotic pride and danger--but with a difference," she said. "We stir up our most painful emotions not in order to exorcise the ghosts of the men and women who died, but to let their spirits rouse us, the living, to further efforts by whose light we can create and sustain a better world."
Other speakers at the service included Durham Fire Chief Otis Cooper, Durham Interim Police Chief Steve Chalmers, Duke Student Government President Joshua Jean-Baptiste, Duke Police Chief Clarence Birkhead and former actor Matthew Lawrence.
The emotional highlight for many came at the end of the program, when Lawrence, who experienced the World Trade Center attacks firsthand, delivered a narrative account of the attacks.
Several times, he nearly choked up with tears, and at one point he seemed unable to continue. A spontaneous ovation from the audience helped him conclude his speech.
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Ed Burmeister, research professor of economics, was highly impressed with Lawrence. "I was having lunch with some colleagues, and just heard a few words, and it was so captivating that I came out to hear the end of it," he said.
Some in the audience said Lawrence's speech stood out because he offered a personal perspective that diverged from the patriotic tone of many of the other speakers.
"I liked the last speech the best," said senior Margaret Gleason. "The other ones were good in saying it's important to remember the events, but I didn't really like the fact they were so 'American pride.'"
Sophomore Justin Segall, who played a major role in organizing the memorial service, said he aimed for a subdued approach. The event was co-sponsored by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., and DSG.
Segall, who began a year-long fellowship at FDD this summer, initiated the project last May with the encouragement of FDD.
"We wanted to follow what was going on in New York," he said. "There's a memorial, but it's very simple."
Some said they wished the University had made a greater commitment to marking the Sept. 11 anniversary. "I don't know how genuine their efforts were because they didn't cancel classes," sophomore Krupal Bhatt said. "It's good PR, I guess."
Ginger Hawks, a second-year graduate student in allied health, felt that the ceremony was not adequately advertised.
Still, Segall was pleased with the turnout and said the ceremony proceeded without a glitch. "I think it went as well as it possibly could," he said.