|Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, reads a Sanskrit prayer during a Sept. 11 Memorial Service in the Memorial Chapel while Jason Harris ’09, left, listens.|
| On Sept. 11, 2001, Marc Arena 07 was in class when his high school principal announced over the P.A. that the World Trade Center towers were struck by two planes. He and his classmates at Pelham Memorial High School in Pelham, N.Y. gathered around a radio, listening in awe.
With an ear on the broadcast, and a pencil at hand, Arena wrote a poem.
Bodies leaping from 61 floors. Like roaches in the light. The people flee from the dark cloud. The shrapnel rain. Suffocating smog and fumes. Complete darkness even in daylight, Arena wrote.
Five years later, Arena presented this poem during a 9-11 Memorial Sept. 11, 2006 in the Memorial Chapel. He was one of six speakers who offered a reflection or poem during the 45-minute service, attended by Wesleyan students, faculty and staff.
Jewish Rabbi David Leipziger Teva organized the service, noting that 1,825 days have passed since the terrorist attacks; 3,500 Wesleyan undergraduates have received degrees; and a baby born on Sept. 11, 2001 could be attending kindergarten this year.
Leipziger Teva read off 24 names of Wesleyan alumni and friends who perished in the attacks, starting with Maile Hale 97 and Andy Kates 85.
Let us reflect on all those who were killed five years ago today, he said. They were our fathers, our wives and our children. They were alumni students who walked the halls we walk today. They were friends and loved ones of our beloved Wesleyan community.
Like Arena, Ethan Kleinberg, associate professor of history, associate professor of letters, shared his memories of Sept. 11, 2001 with the audience, mentioning that his first day teaching classes at Wesleyan was at 10:30 a.m. that morning. Not knowing what to do, he asked the students to speak. Several wanted to explore the reasons of what led to the attacks.
Kleinberg followed his story with summarized points adapted from French philosopher Georges Sorels Reflections on Violence.
By reading a Sanskrit prayer excerpt, Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, mimicked how victims of terrorist bombings in Bali prayed during a ceremony at Ground Zero.
I chose to read and discuss this ceremony because I believe it is important to understand 9/11 in an international perspective, and to reflect on cultures like Balinese Hindus, Jenkins said. They live in the worlds largest Muslim country and chose to respond to terror with art instead of war.
Elizabeth Willis, assistant professor of English, said as a poet, she was struck by how poetry was being circulated on the internet post Sept. 11. She read 1969 Pulitzer Prize poet George Oppens Power of the Enchanted World and an excerpt from Walt Whitmans poem, Leaves of Grass.
Other speakers included Karl Scheibe, professor of psychology, emeritus, who read Robert Frosts Choose Something Like a Star, and Jason Harris ’09 who shared a reflection titled Is it Just a Myth?”
In addition to the memorial, panelists spoke on the topic, “9/11 in Retrospect: in what ways, if any, has the world changed?” in the Public Affairs Center. Donald Moon, dean of the social sciences and John. E. Andrus Professor of Government served as moderator.
Panelists included Peter Gottschalk, associate professor of religion; Bruce Masters, professor of history; Joel Pfister, professor of English and Len Burman,75, director of the Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.
Bells rang at 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m., the times when planes struck the World Trade Center.
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor
The following poem was written by Marc Arena ’07 (pictured above) while listening to the radio during live broadcast coverage of Sept. 11, 2001.
The day shattered by the pierce of the P.A.
The World Trade Center fell
Bush in the air
Reporters choking back fear
War seems only footsteps away
Car bomb explosion
It is the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history
Children stranded at schools
New York City is on full terrorist alert.
Family on Chambers St.
THE SECOND TOWER COLLAPSED!
Bodies leaping from 61 floors
The shrapnel rain
NYC is in shambles
Reports from the air suspended
The globe paralyzed
There might as well be war
Giant flame-throwers erupt from the towers
Half hour between collapses
The word here is Oh My God.
People trapped inside
Smoke tidal wave.
The skyline altered forever
Read another Sept. 11 poem, spoken during the recent Memorial Service, here.