September 14, 2001
We gather here today, joining together in remembrance and prayer following a week of unprecedented events in our great nation. The images we have seen from New York, Washington, D.C., and outside Pittsburgh will be forever etched on our minds and hearts, as will the stories we are now hearing about loved ones found dead or who are missing.
We gather, as millions of others are doing at this very moment in similar services around the nation, to mourn those who have been lost. We gather to pray for and support the families of the people killed or injured. We gather to reflect in sorrow on our own loss of innocence as a nation.
But we also gather to begin the process of healing, of looking for understanding, and of seeking the answers that will help us move on in our lives as stronger individuals and a stronger country.
One of the most difficult things my wife and I had to do on Tuesday was to speak with our children about what had transpired in the morning. As expected, they were confused and afraid. In particular, our youngest daughter, who is in her mid-20s, had a number of questions that weighed heavily on her heart. They are questions that, as we look back over this week, weigh on all our hearts:
How could this have happened?
What kind of person or people could plan and execute this type of attack on innocent people and consider it justified in any way?
What does it mean for the future of this country, of our way of life?
How do we go on from here?
Just as I couldn't provide my daughter with the answers to all of her questions, I cannot stand up here today and provide you with answers. Like all of you, I am asking the questions myself and searching for answers.
I do think, however, that what we are doing now is a beginning. Our first step in healing is to gather with our friends, families, and community and comfort each other in our grief and fear and outrage.
The other answers are ones each of us will have to find in his or her own way.
But there are some things we can take comfort in--things that may help us find answers to those questions.
Even as we wonder how our country--and our own lives--will be changed, we can look around us and draw strength and hope from the incredible stories of courage and character that we are hearing more every day. They are a constant reminder of the wonder of the human spirit.
We can find encouragement and resolve in the groundswell of support and patriotism that is springing up throughout this country. Out of adversity we are becoming stronger, individually and collectively.
And we can remember who and what we are as Americans. We can remember that ours is a country built on openness, freedom and tolerance and that, even now, when feelings are raw and uncertainty surrounds us, there is no room for harassment or intolerance of those who look or believe differently than us. We can realize that hatred and bigotry and intolerance can lead to the type of zealotry that results in hijacked planes and suicide flights into buildings full of innocent people. Terrorism, fanaticism and violence driven by hatred are despicable acts and an affront to a civil and just society. I condemn these acts in the strongest terms, and will never tolerate them in any form.
Even as we mourn, we can begin to try and make sense of what seems so senseless, to try and see how this happened, and to see what we can do as a nation to prevent it from happening again.
Those of us in the university must be especially diligent in this process of reflection. We are blessed to work in a place of open ideas, of thought, of learning, and of wisdom. We hold the responsibility of educating not only the young minds entrusted to us, but also to serve as a wise citizen in the community of which we are a part.
We must remember as faculty and staff that our students, raised in an era of peace and prosperity, have no context by which to judge these events. Most are living away from home and family. Many have friends and family in the areas that were attacked. And, unfortunately, many are finding out on a daily basis that they have lost or may lose a loved one. Our responsibility is to help them come to terms with and understand what has transpired, and to comfort them in their time of greatest need They are counting on us.
I grieve for our young people here at Tulane and around the country, who bear witness to such an atrocity and who now wonder more than ever about their futures. It is difficult to comfort you at this time, but I can assure you that America has overcome great challenges in the past and it will do so once again. It will be stronger, as you will be. And we--faculty and staff--are here for you.
As a university community, and a community of citizens, let us pull together to offer strength, counsel, wisdom and hope to our students and to each other as we look for answers to our questions of "why" and "how."
To aid in this process, we are going to have an open universitywide dialog this afternoon at 3:30 in this room called "Making Sense of the Senseless." A number of our faculty members will use their expertise to help us understand the historic context of what has happened as well as the current situation faced by our nation.
In the meantime, let us remember and pray for those who have been lost. And let us celebrate and honor this great country we live in.
As we did at Tuesday's service, let us now bow our heads, hold hands in a chain of solidarity and unity, and pray together for our country and for those individuals who have died or been injured. May we also pray for the strength to meet the challenges of the future with hope and a resolve to overcome adversity.
--Scott S. Cowen
Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638 firstname.lastname@example.org