Remembering 9/11, in silence and sound, at the Peace Pole

Ten years after two planes struck the World Trade Center towers and killed nearly 3,000 people, Goshen College students gathered at the Peace Pole to remember.

On Sunday at 1 p.m., students stood outside the Union for a minute of silence and the tolling of bells in honor of those affected by the attacks.

“There are so many ways that [the anniversary] could be recognized,” said Brook Hostetler, a junior, “but I like the idea of meeting around the pole and trying to ‘make peace’ with something tragic that happened.”

The pole presents the phrase “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in eight languages: American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Hebrew, Spanish and Swahili. It was installed in fall 2002, a year after the attacks.

“In a world filled with so much hate, violence and war, we are trying to cultivate a culture of peace out of our Mennonite Peace Church position,” Dean Johnson, the director of the Plowshare Initiative, said at the time.

Although the nation commemorates the anniversary of 9/11 annually, the significance of a decade gone by prompted United States lawmakers to pass a commemoration bill, stating that “the people of the United States and people around the world continue to mourn the tremendous loss of life on that fateful day.” The measure requested that colleges and universities take a moment to “stop and remember.”

“[The anniversary] is one of those ‘momentous 10s,’” said Bill Born, vice president for Student Life and dean of students. “So much of the focus is through churches and religious institutions, and as a religious entity we can acknowledge and respect this.”

The school’s ceremony was committed to silence, prayer and simple stillness, allowing each person to observe the anniversary in his or her own way, “which then respects them as individuals in terms of their faith and perspective,” said Born.

Sarah Dieter, a senior, recognized the significance of respect and sensitivity that afternoon. As the college’s youth ministry intern, it was her responsibility to lead the commemoration service. She considered it a unique opportunity “because I knew that I could bring up reconciliation and strong themes of peace.”

Dieter worked with Bob Yoder, campus pastor, to plan a simple ceremony, one that was meant to create space for those who needed it. Bells chimed for a full minute, followed by a prayer and another minute of silence.

Dieter’s prayer spoke of peace, justice and mercy. It focused on Jesus as a peacemaker and one who acted out of love, not violence or revenge.

Dieter chose to see the event “in as many perspectives as possible,” with an aim to speak not only as an American but also “as a citizen of the world and as somebody who experiences pain.”

Global citizenship, one of the school’s five core values, served as a theme in the tribute service. “Goshen cares so much about the world and global citizens and making a difference … but it is such a messy subject,” Dieter said.

“[The commemoration] really asked the question: How do we handle things that come against us, not only as a country, but as individual people?” Hostetler said.

–By Lauren Treiber

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Written by Sara Alvarez

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