Six years after the attacks that catapulted the nation into the war on terror, GW community members held a vigil to the lives lost on Sept. 11 Tuesday evening in University Yard.
The Student Association and other student organizations sponsored the vigil, which included remarks from University officials, prayers recited by local religious leaders and an a capella performance.
“This evening is about unity, remembrance and hope,” said SA President Nicole Capp in her opening remarks.
The vigil is especially personal for Capp, a New York native who is still struck by emotion remembering the stranger who gave her mother a pair of sneakers so she could walk out of Manhattan on the day of the attacks, she said.
“Few universities have the same kind of relation to (the events on Sept. 11) than GW,” University President Steven Knapp said. “No one knew where the next plane might strike.”
Knapp called on GW students to take advantage of their location in D.C. to learn the lessons of Sept. 11 and to “embrace intellectual beliefs and customs that differ from your own.”
Knapp recalled the pit in his stomach that formed after he heard a second plane had hit the World Trade Center.
“I still reel from how awful that was,” he said.
Edward “Skip” Gnehm, a professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula affairs, recalled his experience on Sept. 11, 2001, a time just after he began serving as ambassador to Jordan.
“(Jordanians) from all walks of life – children, adults, the rich and poor” came to the embassy in Jordan to express their sorrow and anger at the terrorists, Gnehm said.
“It is absolutely crucial that we’re prepared for another attack,” Gnehm said. “We should not be driven by fear.”
Along with speakers, the vigil also included a presentation of colors by the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps members, a prayer for unity by Rabbi Joshua Ginsberg and a prayer for remembrance by Imam Johari from the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center.
Near the end of the ceremony, vigil participants lit candles for the nine GW alumni who lost their lives in the attacks while the a capella group LawCapella sang a closing song.
Adjunct Instructor in Spanish Dolores Perillan commuted from her home in Rockville, Md. to attend the vigil.
“I always ask my students to come to the vigil. It’s a special place to be,” Perillan said. She makes a point of attending the vigil every year.
This year, she gave her students a Chilean poem to read before the vigil. “It’s a poem of encouragement, reminding us that lives never pass away,” she said. Her students were instructed to write a reflection on the poem and the vigil for class.
Sophomore Brandon Mansur attended the vigil to gain a new perspective on the attacks.
“My awareness of the world is a little different now than it was in 2001,” Mansur said. “(The vigil) gives students a connection to the victims of Sept. 11.”
Mansur is a member of Students Defending Democracy, one of the organizers of the event. “I feel strongly about the ideals of our country,” he said.
After the vigil, Students Defending Democracy hosted a viewing of “The Flight That Fought Back,” a Discovery Channel documentary about the hijacked plane brought down by passengers in Shanksville, Pa.