Baylor Community Comes Together As Tragedy Unfolds

Sept. 13, 2001

by Nicole L. Anderson, Student Newswriter

A river of tears flows through the Baylor campus. Tears of grief, sorrow, mourning, heartache, shock, horror, indignation and outrage. The Sept. 11 terrorist attack on America has left many members in the Baylor community struggling to make sense of the tragedy and seeking their role in the aftermath.

Students and faculty gathered the night of Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Waco Hall for a memorial service remembering victims of the calamity. Quiet, reflective music played as students walked in soberly, pinning navy ribbons to their chests. Two students led the crowd in worship songs to start the service. In the opening chorus, voices joined to sing:

Give us clean hands

Give us pure hearts

Let us not lift our souls to another

O God, let us be a generation that seeks

Seeks Your face, O God of Jacob

President Robert B. Sloan Jr. spoke about the challenge to the spirit that this occasion presents. Sloan emphasized that anger and outrage at evil have a justifiable place, but that these emotions can be dangerous because we often forget that we too are sinners and our behavior often outrages God.

Sloan read from Psalms saying that it is better to express anger through scripture than as vigilantes. In the final lines of his prayer, he said, "We are bold to ask for justice, yet we would fear that justice applied to our own lives. May God grant us grace, mercy and healing."

Student body president Matthew Flanigan spoke to inform students and faculty of other events occurring on campus in relation to Tuesday's events. Golden Key Honor Society is collecting money for the Red Cross; donation boxes are available in the Student Union Building and in the McLane Student Life Center. An emergency blood drive took place Thursday, Sept. 13, in the lobby of the new law school building. That same day, an open dialogue was held in Bennett Auditorium to allow students to express their reactions and ask questions of faculty who have expertise in fields related to this tragedy.

Many students have responded by hanging American flags outside their apartments or houses. Both Wal-Mart stores in Waco are sold out of flags. One Wal-Mart employee said that 88,000 flags were sold in Wal-Mart stores nationwide on Wednesday, compared to 6,000 on the same day last year. Adam Weathers, a senior from Midland, hung a flag over his apartment door to show his support for the American government, firefighters and police officers in New York.

"More than anything it's to show our sense of pride as Americans," Weathers said. "Here we are in Waco, but the tragedy hits home all the way down here and brings out a sense of patriotism."

Some professors did not hold class Tuesday to allow students to watch the news and to absorb the historical events taking place, but many other professors have used their classrooms as a forum for discussion. Dr. Michael Bishop of the journalism department compared the current situation facing this generation to the one in Tom Brokaw's book, The Greatest Generation. He encouraged students to embrace this hardship, and to use it as a definitive characteristic of their generation. He also emphasized to his class Wednesday the need to carry on with daily life.

"If we allow ourselves to slip into a disabled state, the terrorists have won and accomplished their goal," Bishop said.

Students are responding with mixed emotions to the uncertainty of what the future implications of this event will be. Hailey Moore, a junior from Abilene, started keeping a journal as soon as she learned of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. She writes down everything reported on the news, rumors circulating and the reactions of everyone that she comes in contact with from her roommates to professors and fellow classmates. She also records her daily routine so that she will be able to look back and remember how close to or far away from the situation she felt.

"The thing that will always stand out in my mind is the passion and pride of the United States," Moore said. "Whoever attacked the U.S. thought they could make a devastating impact, but I hope that they have seen how we have come together and the compassion showed towards one another. I think God's hand is in everything that is happening and their purpose is completely undermined because God is bigger than them."

Pastor Giraud, a junior from Houston, worked in the World Trade Center this summer and befriended a man who is now missing. Giraud mourns the uncertainty of his friend's fate, and the impact that the loss of one person can have on so many people. However, Giraud also expressed his gratitude to the people aboard the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, who possibly diverted that plane from crashing into another federal building and taking thousands more lives and further crippling the American spirit.

"I am most grateful for the people that actually became heroes in the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania," Giraud said. "Those brave people have helped us immensely, and they deserve our tribute."

The impact of the plane crashes on students has been profound. Jared Peel, a sophomore from Abilene, said that the incident has caused him to gain perspective on the small things in life that are sometimes overwhelming. He also said that he thinks a positive impact will result from the tragedy. Peel expects people to band together and stop worrying about the small things in life, but to look deeper into their lives and to what matters most. Evidence of national political unity has already been displayed among many politicians of opposite ideology in Washington, D.C.

"This will be remembered as the worst day of sorrow that my lifetime has ever seen, but there is also a positive light in the fact that our nation could not be destroyed," Peel said.

Though the future remains uncertain, optimism and patriotism are unmatched sentiments. Looking back upon the history of the American people banding together in times of crisis, and witnessing this present illustration of unity, it's no wonder that "God Bless America" is a song dear to our hearts.

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