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Looking Back

by Sep. 1, 2011, 2:34 PM

Student Natalie DuBose looks at prayer ribbons hanging from the remembrance tree on Sept. 13, 2001. (Vanderbilt University/Neil Brake)

In the hours and days following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Vanderbilt responded to the tragedy by organizing events and services designed to give the university community opportunities to grieve and reflect. As events unfolded on live TV the morning of Sept. 11, viewing stations were set up throughout Sarratt Student Center. By noon, a free long-distance phone bank was made available to students, who were encouraged to get in touch with their families. Psychological and religious counseling was provided for students, faculty and staff, and at 9 p.m. that evening, a capacity crowd filled Benton Chapel for a nondenominational service of hope and remembrance.

On Sept. 13, community members gathered on Alumni Lawn to observe a moment of silence. “Taps” was played, and Vanderbilt’s Navy ROTC presented the American colors. Following the brief ceremony, then-Chancellor Gordon Gee led students, faculty and staff in a forum discussing the week’s events. “Indeed we have endured a tragedy,” he said, “but the greater tragedy would be for us to allow the activities of a few to unmoor us morally and spiritually.” Community members were asked to write prayers and reflections on ribbons of material that were tied to a “remembrance tree” on Alumni Lawn.

On Sept. 14, nearly 50 Vanderbilt students from the New York area boarded a bus chartered by the university to take them home for the weekend. At noon, prayer services simultaneously began in Benton Chapel and the Vanderbilt Hospital chapel, and the bell in the Kirkland Hall tower rang every 15 seconds for 11 minutes.