Thousands attend candlelight vigil on the Mall
After those gathered sang “America the Beautiful,” the Rev. Laura Lee Wilson of the Campus Religious and Spiritual Live Concerns Caucus welcomed the solemn, hushed crowd. As crickets chirped in the warm evening air, she and other UD religious leaders read a statement in unison:
“As the religious leaders at the University of Delaware, we stand in sadness of the tragic events which have taken place today. We disagree with the cruel acts of terrorism against all of God’s people. We mourn with those who have been directly affected by today’s events. We pray today and every day for peace in our world.”
Other religious leaders who spoke included the Rev. Mike Szupper, St. Thomas More Oratory; Ismat Shah, faculty adviser of the Muslim Students Association; Grant Wolf, faculty adviser of the Baha’i Community; the Rev. Bruce Heggen, of the Lutheran Campus Ministry; Graham Van Keuren, of the Presbyterian Campus Ministry; and Rabbi Eliezer Sneiderman, director of the Chabbad Center for Jewish Life. Also speaking was Corinne Bria, president of the Delaware Undergraduate Student Congress (DUSC).
Hundreds of lit candles illuminated faces, displaying a range of emotions, including fear, confusion, sadness and hope.
Each of the speakers read from religious texts, ranging from the Koran to the Torah.
Szupper described the site of the vigil as a sacred campus place that has become a site of “grieving and bewilderment,” and just as the skyline of New York City has changed, so have all those present.
“We are religious leaders of different faiths and one family of God in this place of academic celebration, of so many convocations, anticipating the good that will be through learning and knowledge,” Szupper said.
“This eve, it’s a place of grieving, bewilderment, being unable to comprehend. We are confused by the happenings of this day, but we do not replace confusion with anger, with hatred. Our focus is compassion with those who suffer.
“We have seen buildings crumble, but through the dust, we are touched by the people, the persons who shared a cup of coffee this morning and said a quick ‘goodbye,’ which became their final farewell.
“The skyline of New York is different, but more importantly, we are all changed,” Szupper said.
“False barriers are down and, through the dust, we need to recognize each other as sister and brother, all members of the human family. Their pain is our pain. Our prayer is their strength.
“As we grieve and look through our tears, as we try to fathom what has happened, we commit ourselves to reach out to one another and make wherever we are—a better place to be.
“Consoling God, be a source of serenity for us as this tragedy threatens to overwhelm us.
“God of peace, you are the center of our lives, a strong refuge of peace in this whirlwind of pain and confusion. We look to you for strength and a constant assurance of hope,” he concluded.
Shah’s selection was the Muslim reading of “Daybreak,” which spoke of seeking refuge in daybreak from the evil of darkness and the evil of malignant witchcraft.
Shah read, “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, say: I seek refuge in the Lord of Daybreak from the evil of that which He created; from the evil of the darkness when it is intense, and from the evil of malignant witchcraft, and from the evil of the envier when he envieth.”
Wolf offered a prayer of hope for America, and asked that it become
a glorious nation that will grow in spiritual degrees to match its material
“We are here this evening because we believe in life and love and hope; and we believe in a future of freedom and justice and righteousness,” Heggan said.
“We are people of different languages, different cultures, different colors of skin, different religious traditions. We believe that we are not alone in our hope and love.
“In spite of our differences, may we say that we believe that there is a source of life which loves life, which gives life, which shares our grief and our shock and our horror and our outrage at the events of this day.
“We grieve the loss of life: It touches some of us most personally and all of us profoundly. Let us provide conversation and comfort to be present to each other in our grief.
“We are angry for violence done anonymously to thousands. Let us find words of protest against every act of violence. Let anger fuel the cause of righteousness. But, let us be careful that our passion for justice and righteousness not lead to greater violence. And, let us be careful that our passion for justice and righteousness not be directed toward any not guilty of acts of terror.
“We are frightened to discover how vulnerable we are. Let us unlearn the vulnerability of terror and learn instead the vulnerability of love, that we may care for one another.
“Can we trust again? Can we feel secure again? Can we hope again?
“Today has changed us all.
“We believe in life. We choose life. We protest all that violates what makes life livable. We grieve what we have lost today.
“Let all of our being and all of our doing serve—serve love, serve hope, serve healing—that we might go forward in peace,” Heggen concluded.
Van Keuren read from the Book of Revelation: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride and bridegroom adorned for each other. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them; they will be God’s peoples, and God will indeed be with them; God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’”
“Religion is a very strong force,” Sneiderman said, “and it is a force to be used for good. Where we see senseless hate, senseless darkness, we have to confront it with senseless kindness and senseless light.”
Speaking through tears, Bria said, “In response to the horrific terrorist attacks that occurred on American soil this morning, the Delaware Undergraduate Student Congress would like to offer our deepest and sincerest regrets to all that have lost the lives of loved ones and friends in this terrible event. Our commitment is to the students at this University and we stand before you today imploring you to help us help one another. We are deeply concerned about the students here on our campus. We have seen the tear-strewn faces and heard the heart-wrenching stories. We want to be at the service of the students who have suffered losses and those who are angry and confused. We want to reach out to students who feel unsafe and those who may want to retaliate with violence. The Executive Board of the DUSC is a passionate board and we want students and faculty to know that we want to help in the efforts to ease their pain and grief. We are available to contribute to any programs that would assist the student body in dealing with this issue. We hope that all of your family members and friends are safe. God bless America.”
The ceremony ended with a statement by Wilson, “We have come together, students, faculty, staff, administrators—all part of the human family—seeking understanding, to feel support as we try to make sense out of the chaos of this September day. As we go from here still in disbelief, shock, confusion, facing many unknowns, we know that it will take time, more time than we can imagine, to find peace of mind, body and spirit. May the One known by many names walk with you today and always. Blessed be.
Counselors were present and waiting at the Perkins Student Center to talk with students who needed assistance and guidance.
Article by Ed Okonowicz