Geneseo President Christopher C. Dahl's

September 11th Message to the College Community

The following is the complete text of SUNY Geneseo President Christopher C. Dahl's message to the college community on the eve of 9/11.

To the College Community,

The task of reminding each other and ourselves about September 11, 2001, is all too easy. The memory of that day's events is quite simply and quite painfully inescapable. The task of discovering and creating the meaning of those events, however, is another matter.

Today, Geneseo will join the state of New York and the nation in commemoration ceremonies for the fifth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the crash of Flight 93. In the intervening years it has become increasingly clear to all of us that, even if we had never been to the Twin Towers or never spent much time in New York City, the attack hit home. No one needs to be reminded that it happened. The need stems from our obligation and our yearning to renew a personal connection with the moment.

Geneseo lost four alumni—James Kelly ('83), Richard Bosco ('89), Dennis O'Berg ('95), and Yan Zhu Cindy Guan ('99)—that day working in the Towers. Staff and students lost family and close friends. And all of us saw our previous understanding of world events instantly displaced by something much less secure—and still not altogether clear or certain.

On September 11, 2001, Geneseo students, faculty, and staff—who only the day before were casually settling into the second week of fall semester—gathered on the MacVittie Union patio late in the afternoon. We spoke to each other, and passed candles, and sang to each other. Then we fell silent for a while. Then we spoke and sang again. Around the periphery of the very large gathering dozens of small conversations took place in whispers: faculty who had just been in the city that weekend; students with close connections to the city figuring out how they might get home—if only for a day—because the distance from home was unbearable; administrators trying to figure out how to balance the debilitating shock of the attack against the need to carry on with the work of the College. "9/11" was something we all had to deal with, in all senses of the word.

It still is.

Today, the Alumni Carillon will toll at 8:46 a.m. to remind us of the time that the first plane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center. At 6:30 p.m., students, staff, and community members will hold a brief memorial service in the Roemer Arboretum to remember and honor our four alumni who lost their lives. At 7:30 p.m., there will be a remembrance on the College Union Patio. White bags, on which students have written their feelings about 9/11, will be arranged with illumination around the patio. Students, faculty, staff, and community members are invited to read the bags and join in singing and silent prayer. Students have created American flags with their handprints which will be displayed in prominent locations this week. We thank the Residence Life staff, Student Association officers, Inter-Residence Council, and the Undergraduate Alumni Association for their roles in planning these tributes.

We may not, as the saying goes, always be interested in history, but history is always interested in us. Few if any of us are likely to live long enough to see 9/11 pass into obscure historical trivia. If only it would. Today we commemorate a day when history became too interested in us. We commemorate the victims we lost, the families and friends who held them most dear, the heroism of police and fire fighters and others on the rescue scene, and the indomitable spirit of a miraculous city. Perhaps most significantly, today we honor the compassionate spirit of community that heals the deepest wounds history can inflict upon us.

Please join your fellow students, faculty and staff in today's commemorative activities.


Christopher C. Dahl