Remembrance, reflection, renewal: Furman remembers 9/11
Twenty years ago, Furman’s Class of 2005 was beginning its first day of class. The day was warm but cloudy, far from the brilliant, clear skies over New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, that morning. The date was Sept. 11, 2001.
The Furman community’s response to 9/11 was immediate. A memorial service welcomed hundreds of students, faculty and staff on Sept. 12 at Daniel Memorial Chapel. Students posted prayers and messages in the area between Furman and Plyler halls, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia presented a concert to benefit the Red Cross. Safety concerns forced the cancellation of study away programs for winter term and delayed the return of participants in the England program for more than a week.
The tragedy continued to echo through the years. Members of the Furman family shared their stories, fears and hopes in a host of publications. In the summer of 2011, Furman magazine published a feature collecting remembrances and reflections from the past decade. Some of those are excerpted below, along with other Furman voices from the last two decades.
A more permanent memorial now exists outside Furman Hall. The words of students – memories of that day and hopes for the future – are etched into two slabs of stone flanking a walkway. The monument was the senior gift of the Class of 2005, in memory of their first day of class on a warm fall morning 20 years ago.
“By the afternoon, hundreds of people were streaming up the avenues from downtown, like panicked refugees,” wrote Jack Sullivan ’69 in Furman Magazine in 2011. “I stood helplessly on the street with my neighbor. He looked ashen; he had been waiting all day for his wife to come home. She worked in the Towers, and since cellphones were out downtown, he didn’t know if she was dead or alive. Eventually she wandered onto the street like a ghost.”
“I thought my tribulations were over as I boarded the plane,” remembered Maya Pai ’02 of her Thanksgiving 2001 trip home, “although I was surprised that I hadn’t been ‘randomly selected’ [for searching] again. But just as I reached my seat, an attendant said, ‘Ms. Pai, you need to deplane immediately.’ To my mortification, he escorted me off the plane.”
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was the star attraction of “National Security in a New Age,” the first national conference sponsored by the Richard W. Riley Institute, held March 12, 2002.
“We are only at the beginning of what will be a long and perhaps permanent struggle against the forces of destruction,” she said. “In the months ahead, we must employ every means available, every tool of politics and policy, to rally the world and defeat the devil’s marriage between technology and terror.”
“I had just emerged from teaching my first 16th-century counterpoint class, which in those days met at 7:30 a.m., when the news hit. As a result, the image ever-imposed before my mind’s eye as I worked on ‘Sentinels’ was that of two towering, isolated individuals – shadow figures in some tragic sense — invoked by the terrible events of 9/11,” said Mark Kilstofte, composer-in-residence and music professor at Furman. “Sentinels,” a work for two trumpets, was commissioned by Laurel Whisler, who had been a librarian in the Maxwell Music Library. It premiered in Daniel Recital Hall on April 18, 2002.
Werner Kratschell, a prominent Lutheran minister from Germany, brought his message of peace and reconciliation to Furman at the opening convocation of the 2002-2003 academic year – held on Sept. 11.
“When we ask … how we as individuals and as a community of mankind can continue,” he said, “the answer must include the installation of doors – doors for the development of new values and norms through which the power of God’s word can enter our world to help, heal and reconcile.”
“Ten years later, I teach in the same Furman Hall classrooms that I did that infamous day, and my world has changed, but my students have changed, too,” said Sarah Worth ’92, professor of philosophy. “Although 9/11 is one of those ‘flashbulb’ dates – people remember clearly where they were when they learned about the attacks – most members of the 2011 freshman class were born in 1998 and were only 8 when the planes crashed. They do not remember the New York City skyline with the Twin Towers, and they do not remember clearly what America was like before the attack.”
“I can’t know or imagine the pain suffered by the loved ones of those who were killed. I also don’t know what it’s like to lose a family member in combat. But in my own universe, I’ve experienced painful issues that can’t be easily, quickly or inexpensively resolved,” said Amy Buttell ’83 in the summer 2011 Furman magazine. “All I can do within my private universe is try to do the next right thing, to act with integrity and make the most of each moment. If we can do that as a society, that’s about all we can do as well.”
“I suggest we are well served to remember what historians know: history makes a nation,” Savita Nair, professor of history, wrote in the Greenville News on Sept. 11, 2016. “We create that history in the present and have the possibility … to not repeat the mistakes of the past. What nation do we seek to make? We can begin by recognizing that the events being remembered today are not unique to this country. It is responsible to recall that many countries memorialize events all year long that are tragic and meaningful, and part of their history-making and nation-making.”
“Just as the Vietnam War Memorial helped me connect to a part of my father’s life, I hope the 9/11 Memorial at Furman will help others connect to a piece of our past,” wrote Anna Martin Winter ’05 on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. “Perhaps their fingers can trace over the stories engraved on the stones and allow them to better understand what the experience was like for us.”