As the sun faded on Foggy Bottom, members of the GW community illuminated University Yard during the largest Sept. 11 candlelight vigil on campus since the attack’s first anniversary.
More than 1,000 students, faculty and community members commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to estimates from a University spokesperson.
The crowd stood in a calm silence, each person holding a candle at dusk while speakers reflected on the meaning of the attacks a decade later.
Women’s studies professor Bonnie Morris read from her personal Sept. 11 diary entry, describing the paralyzing fear she felt after learning of the attacks.
“My body feels a morbid surge of hilarity, the first harbinger of shock,” Morris read aloud from her journal.
She was on her way to office hours when everyone began fleeing the downtown area. Morris took shelter in the basement, determined not to leave her students behind, she said.
University President Steven Knapp described the lasting impact of Sept. 11 on campus.
“GW lost nine alumni, and we have never ceased to mourn them in the 10 years that have since elapsed,” Knapp said.
Students listened while Joe Mancinik, a 31-year-old senior and former member of the Navy Reserves, took the stage.
“I, like most, was swept away in the patriotic fervor of that day,” Mancinik said. “I hope that people honor those lost by living a full life.”
The vigil concluded with a faculty ensemble performance that filled the yard with a chorus of “God Bless America” as District security helicopters sputtered above.
The scene returned to silence as Student Association President John Richardson listed the names of the alumni who perished in the attacks. The crowd passed their flames from candle to candle, forming a chain of light across the yard.
As a cappella groups lined H street, the Class of 2015 arrived at the vigil after a day of service activities honoring the anniversary of the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.
Freshman Martin Quirk said the ceremony made him realize the greater context of Sept. 11 for him and his classmates.
“The event helped keep the power of what happened so that we don’t ever forget,” Quirk said.
This article was updated on Sept. 12, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Joe Mancinik was a current member of the Navy reserves. In fact, he retired earlier this year.”