Reprinted today is the front page article from the Collegian‘s September 13th, 2001 edition.
Kenyon community grieves with nation
by Adam Sapp, Senior Production Editor
On any other day, that city would have seemed a world away. The Broadway lights, subway trains and busy streets of New York don’t easily blend into the serene pastoral landscape of mid-September in Gambier. But it wasn’t any other day. Gambier and New York seemed inextricably linked as students, glued to the television sets around campus and to the Internet updates on computers in their rooms, watched in shock and disbelief the events occurring in New York and Washington. It seemed so far away, and yet, at the same time, so very close.
Quick to react to news concerning the terrorist bombings at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan ans the Pentagon in Washington DC, Kenyon administration established, through a series of meetings throughout the day on Tuesday, a response plan. The plan included religious services, resource centers for conversation, rest and relaxation areas for worried and stressed students, and places for donating services and goods that will benefit those at the scene of the tragedy. After canceling classes for the day, President Oden, in a statement released to all students on Tuesday afternoon, offered his condolences.
“Even given the massive tragedies we are confronting, please know that we are a community and that together we will get through this very difficult time,” Oden said in his statement.
Many Kenyon students hail from the areas most affected by the tragedy. The New York City, Boston and Washington DC metro areas represent a high percentage of the student and alumni populations. In particular, there are a number of students whose parents and family members worked at the World Trade Center and near the Pentagon–some still with no word on the status of their family members.
Administrative response to student needs has been a touch and go procedure, and as Dean for Academic Advising Jane Martindell explains, the administration is constantly in need of student response in order to better serve the College’s needs.
“This [experience] is uncharted ground for all of us,” said Martindell. “My advice would be that if things are bothering you, please find someone and talk about it. If you spot someone that is struggling, be a friend and listen to them; if you feel comfortable talking to your faculty members, please do that [as well].”
As far as student response is concerned, the outpouring of support has been high. Chapel services have been held. Community and Resident Advisers have all been asked to offer support, and faculty and administrators, including religious leaders and Health Center workers, have been operating under an open-door policy, asking individuals who feel the need to discuss their concerns with others to please contact them at any time.
Locally, four Kenyon students with the College Township Fire Department left for New York City. Sophomore James “Jeb” Breece, juniors Oliver Benes and Andrew Kalnow and senior Andrew Bowman left yesterday afternoon bound for New York to assist in the rescue and relief effort in lower Manhattan. “We have the training to do this,” said Breece, “and it’s a time in our life when we can change everything and help.”
There was also a Gambier resident who on Tuesday drove down to Washington DC to pick up a stranded friend who was doing business two blocks from the Pentagon and was unable to arrange any other for of transportation out of the city.
Blood drives have been established both at Kenyon and in surrounding areas in Knox County to respond to the estimated 80,000 units that will be requested to aid the victims.
One student-led initiative was that of sophomore James Lewis, who organized a specifically non-religious discussion for students. Lewis reported that eight people showed up to the group, held in Philomathesian Hall in Ascension. “People came with a need to get certain things off their chest, and while the group was small, I feel that was accomplished,” said Lewis.
Lewis understands the religious aspects of this tragedy but also feels that those seeking understanding in a non-religious manner deserve a forum to be heard as well. “I know the Board of Campus Ministries would like to think that ecumenical services are adequate for some people,” said Lewis, “but there are people who simply don’t feel comfortable in a church.”
Associate Dean of students Cheryl Steele felt that, no matter how one deals with the events of the past week, that the best thing for students to do is to get back to the routine of life at Kenyon. “Things like this make you think about, at least for a moment, what’s important in life,” said Steele, “[but] we thought it was important for everybody to get back into a routine. I don’t think there’s disrespect for the people who died yesterday by going back to our lives.”
Martindell echoed these sentiments precisely, “The healthiest thing to do is to get back on track and do things.”
For students needing to leave campus after consultation with academic advisers, Martindell says Kenyon will not oppose the decision of the student. “The most important thing here is the student…If we have to get creative academically, we will.”
As for furthering the dialogue between the week’s events and student interest academically. Provost Ron Sharp and Oden have been actively engaged in the possibilities, but as Oden explains, nothing is certain to be decided for a while. “The wise course here is just to get through this,” he said. “Kenyon has a long tradition of talking through things, but we’re not going to do it right now. Why? Because this is chiefly a tragedy rather than a controversy…What we are about is intellectualizing things–I think it’s wrong to do that here.”
Oden emphasized that precaution is being taken at every level of activity at Kenyon, from the planning of programs through to their implementation. There is little concrete information on the tragedy and in the end, Kenyon knows only what the rest of the world watching the news and reading the papers does–very little.
“We’re still in the middle of this, I think,” said Oden. “Is there going to be a war? From what I’ve seen and heard, I think the odds are decent, but really, I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
As Gambier and the world watch the clean-up and investigation take place, thoughts turn to regaining a life of normalcy, both on the hill and abroad. As the healing process takes place, Steele feels that the most important thing students can do is to come together. “If you’re struggling to understand this, there’s a lot of people who are willing to talk to you about that,” she said. “Do we understand it ourselves? I can’t begin to understand it. But we can be there for each other and we can support each other.”