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MIT pauses to recall 9/11

Graphic: Christine Daniloff

More than 200 members of the MIT community gathered Sunday morning in a hushed Lobby 10 to reflect on the events that transpired in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001.

“On this beautiful morning, very like the morning we had on Sept. 11, 2001,” President Susan Hockfield said, “we come together to honor those who lost their lives and those who gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. And we come together to reflect on the complex meanings we may draw from that terrible day and the larger events that it unleashed.”

In reflecting on the events of a decade ago, Hockfield said she takes great comfort in the creative wisdom shown by MIT students in preparing to tackle the world’s great challenges, adding that she can imagine no better way to honor the memory of 9/11 victims than “through your devotion to inventing better ways for the world.”
Following an invocation by MIT Chaplain Robert Randolph, the MIT Chapel Bell rang in unison with other bells across Cambridge at 8:46 a.m., corresponding to the time at which the first plane struck the World Trade Center’s North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. Randolph led the audience in observing 60 seconds of silence as the bells rang; they rang a second time at 9:03 a.m., marking the minute a second plane struck the South Tower.

Ellan Spero, vice president of the Graduate Student Council, read the names of 14 members of the extended MIT community known to have been killed on 9/11, including alumni and relatives of MIT students, alumni and employees. John DiFava, who now oversees MIT’s police force as director of facilities operations and security, reflected on the hundreds of first responders who gave their lives while helping others on 9/11, noting that the loss of life almost certainly would have been much greater without their selflessness.

“Heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things,” said DiFava, who in 2001 was part of the nation’s front-line response to 9/11 as a superintendent with the Massachusetts State Police.

“This event will stay with you forever,” said Chancellor Eric Grimson. “And because of this, it is worth reflecting on how you remember those events, and especially how you use them to shape your attitudes today and in the future.”

“Generations yet to come will see Sept. 11 as the defining event of our time,” he added, “and it is for us to dispel intolerance and ignorance, and to move our community forward in acceptance, civility, peace.”

An ROTC/MIT Police Joint Honor Guard concluded the ceremony by raising an American flag to the top of a flagpole in Killian Court for an instant, then lowering it to half-staff.

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