or so students, faculty, and staff who assembled at noon on September
11, 2002, overflowed the banks of the O'Neill Plaza and spilled
out over the road and up onto the porch of Gasson and down toward
Devlin on the south. A year earlier a similarly sized crowd had
assembled with an hour's notice beneath a bright blue sky. This
year the notice was on the Web and campus posters for a week ahead
of time, the sky was overcast, and there were fewer tears, fewer
students with arms draped over each other's shoulders, and no solitary
figures standing away from the outer edges of the crowd, speaking
quietly into cell phones. This year a white canvas "Wall of
Remembrance" the size of a schoolbus stood beside the wood
stage on the plaza, the names of 22 alumni and two parents written
on it with black marker in columns at each edge.
Fr. Leahy spoke, and so did two chaplains. In brief, they asked
us to move from mourning to rededication. A student who'd been chosen
to speak seemed to want to say something similar but drifted as
he went along, as though he couldn't find certainty in his own heart.
The Voices of Imani gospel choir sang, and so did the BC Chorale,
and Kate Leavey's crystalline soprano soared on "This Is My
Song" and made people at the back of the crowd stand on tiptoe
to see who it was down there in front of the library singing like
that. Then students representing five religious traditions spoke
or chanted their prayers for peace and for the dead. It was the
chants in foreign tongues—Hindi, Hebrew, and Arabic—that captured
me. The words were unalike but the music was the same, a seesawing
cry that seemed to rise and fall and rise and fall like it was trying
to will itself to get somewhere it couldn't get. Afterward, the
names of the 24 murder victims were read by students. That's when
the weeping started. A few minutes later "Amazing Grace"
brought the program to an end, and students went down to the Wall
of Remembrance and began writing their thoughts in the white space
between the two black columns of names.
The wall was filled with writing in six hours, and was taken down
a few days later, but I had a chance to read it in photographs posted
on the Campus Ministry Web site. Most of the writing modeled the
now-familiar religious, social, and political formulas of 9/11 inscription:
"God be with you," "We'll never forget," and
"Let's roll." Two things, though, surprised me as I read.
The first was the dozen or so alumni who had made the trek back
to campus to take up a marker and recall their lost classmates.
The second was the many non-alumni who turned up on the Boston College
wall because they had been known to, and were remembered by, Boston
College's students: "MDH—I love and miss you, Superman. Lisa."
"Alex F. Ciccone. You are always in our hearts." "In
loving memory of Sgt. Robert M. Kaulfers, Port Authority. You will
always be in our hearts. Kathleen DeLuca." "Andy Kim we
all miss you. You made such an impact on so many lives. We will
remember you. Eric Joo '06." "Ron Vauk—we love you and
miss you. Kirsten." "RIP Doc, BB, TR + PK. You will be
in my heart forever. Melissa '06." "Joseph DiPilato, Staten
Island. We will never forget you!" "Amanda and Joe. Our
prayers are always with you." "Mr. Corcoran—the others.
We will never forget. Norwell and Suzanne." "Xavier H.S.
New York. Patty Dowdell, Sr." "Mr. Gregory. Ramsay, New
Jersey. You will be missed. Philip Chiang." "In loving
memory of Richard B. Ross. We will never forget you." "Alex
Steinman. Well remembered one year later. Lawson and Jason and Denise
and MG loved you." "Hey Joe, we miss and love you. Chris
is fine. I'll take care of him for you. Your '2nd son' John."
And so on.
Photo: O'Neill Plaza on September 11, 2002. By Lee Pellegrini