The service was simple. It was not overblown with flashy lights or catchy gimmicks, but instead, it was overflowing with respect and remembrance.
September 11, 2001 still casts a long shadow over all who were affected, whether directly or indirectly.
This past Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, marked the 10-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa. To provide students with a way to show their respect, Director of United Campus Ministries and Spiritual Life David McMahon organized a formal memorial service held on the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union patio.
“We want to mark the day in a solemn way,” McMahon said. “It’s important to honor all those who served in one way or another.”
McMahon began work on setting up the service in August. With the exception of a small service in Marsh Memorial Chapel on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, there has been no formal service for students at Springfield College in past years, according to McMahon.
Every year on Sept. 11, the chapel has remained open throughout the day for quiet reflection.
“This being the 10th anniversary, we wanted to have something a little more formal,” McMahon said.
The service began at 8:46 a.m. with the tolling of the bells on top of the Campus Union, and ended shortly following the second tolling of the bells at 9:03 a.m.
The bells tolled four times throughout the morning to commemorate the four crashes of Flights 11, 175, 77 and 93. McMahon based the outline of the service around the first two tolling of the bells.
After the first tolling stopped, second-year graduate student Josh Schupack played a short musical piece on his violin, followed by a prayer by McMahon.
McMahon, the main speaker at the service, shared three reading selections chosen to provide students and faculty the opportunity to reflect and think about the events of 9/11 before Schupack played a second selection.
Director of Student Volunteer Programs Charlene Elvers also presented a short reflection to remember those who were lost and those who responded to the crisis.
After his closing prayer, McMahon asked for a moment of silence.
As if on cue, the second tolling of the bells began shortly after the gathered group grew quiet.
Although many students were young at the time of the 9/11 attacks and may not be able to rehash vivid memories, many of the faculty and older students have visions from that day ingrained in their hearts and minds.
McMahon, who was living in Boston and attending graduate school at the time of the attacks, reflected on his memories.
“I was driving on the bridge between Cambridge and Boston…and it came on the radio,” he said. “It was just a sense of shock.”
Graduate student Caitlin Semmelrock and senior Maggie Daingerfield both have personal connections to the tragedy.
Semmelrock’s uncle was in a hotel near the World Trade Center when the planes struck, while Daingerfield’s uncle, who survived, worked at the World Trade Center.
“He [her uncle] still has his clothes and shoes from that day in his closet,” Daingerfield said.
“I feel like Sept. 11 is something that hits you no matter what,” Semmelrock said. “I remember the room I was in [at school], the desk I was at.”
“Anytime I see the clock say 9:11, I think of it,” Daingerfield added.
McMahon also shared his view of the attacks and his hope for the future.
“On that day, the actions of a very few people changed the world in a very negative way,” McMahon said.
He went on to stress that it is critical to “not stay in the anger and in despair, but to use that energy to do good in the world.”
“I think it’s an important day just to stay together as people,” Semmelrock said. “The differences we have don’t really mean anything.”
Joe Brown may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org