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A National Tragedy; A Local Response

Nothing could have prepared the WPI community for the news that flashed across campus on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11. In seconds, the quiet business of a late summer day exploded into anguish, pain and worry.

The shock was intense and mind-numbing. But somehow the campus quickly responded. TVs were set up across campus, broadcasting news updates. The Counseling and Student Development Center mobilized to offer solace and support to those closely affected by the tragedy and those finding it hard to cope with a world turned upside down. The university sent employees home to their families and cancelled classes that first day, and many events scheduled for subsequent days and weeks were cancelled or postponed, as were the travel plans of faculty and staff.

Work and study began again the following day. While striving to return to a routine, the WPI community also reached out to help meet the needs of those affected by the tragedy. Many rushed to local blood donation centers--some standing in line for many hours to make a donation. Many responded with gifts of clothing, food and other items needed by the victims and by the teams working at the sites of the disasters.

Scenes from a candlelight vigil at Reunion Plaza on Sept. 15.

At week's end, as President Bush declared a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, hundreds of students, faculty members and staff members gathered in Harrington Auditorium for a prayer service. That evening, they came together again, lighting candles and marching in a solemn procession that stretched in an unbroken chain of light nearly all the way around the Quadrangle. The march ended in Reunion Plaza for a moving tribute to the victims and their families. It was a memorable conclusion to a week that will remain seared in the memory.

The tragic events of Sept. 11 affected every member of the greater WPI community. To read about how they touched the lives of the university's alumni, see the September 11, 2001 section of Class Notes.

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Last modified: Sep 02, 2004, 16:00 EDT
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