'Never forget': W&M community gathers for 9/11 anniversary
The setting sun cast long shadows on somber students and community members congregating at the steps of the Sir Christopher Wren Building Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. As they walked along the pathways framing the Sunken Gardens, American flags dotted the grass in neat rows and luminaries with transcribed memories and sentiments lined the sidewalks, many starting with the words “I will never forget.”
The memorial in the Wren Courtyard, “A Program of Remembrance and Reflection,” was the culminating event of a day of activities and gestures in memory of the lives lost on Sept. 11.
“We gather together as the College of William and Mary as we have before on other such solemn occasions in war and peace down the years to remember, and to remember before all of us that it is not death that has brought us here, but love, more real than death, stronger than death,” said Rev. John Kerr, Episcopal Campus Minister, during the event’s invocation. “The enduring truth is, that it is love that binds together as a College community with those who are here and those we will see no longer.”
Earlier that day, the Wren bell had rung at the four times when passenger planes had crashed on the day of the attacks.
“[September 11th] was just sort of surreal and clumped together for me, but each one of these are huge events, different events, and just to experience the time difference between the four of them and think ... now, this bell is for the Pentagon and this one is for the second tower and made it a lot more tangible of an experience.” said Elise Zevitz ’12, who rang the Wren bell Sunday morning.
Also that morning, members of the Young Democrats and College Republicans clubs planted American flags in neat rows in the Sunken Garden. A memorial wreath and a flag from Ground Zero were also displayed near the garden; members of the Queens’ Guard guarded them as students and members of the community came by to pay their respects throughout the day. The Wren Chapel was also open for prayer from noon to 7 p.m.
At 4 p.m., William & Mary’s ROTC program led a “ruck march” through campus, dressed in battle dress uniform and carrying their gear in a backpack. Members of the community were invited to join them. The march ended at 4:45 p.m. near the Wren Building, where members of 1st Lt. Todd Weaver’s family unveiled a replica of a plaque made in his memory. The real plaque will be housed at the ROTC building.
Weaver ‘08, who was killed in action in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan, had been a “star in the ROTC program,” according to William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree from the government department. Weaver put off college to join the military after high school. He served in Iraq before becoming a student at William & Mary. Weaver is survived by his wife, Emma, and daughter Kiley.
In the days leading up to Sunday, the Student Assembly had offered luminaries and markers for members of the college community to write what they will never forget about Sept. 11. People could write their thoughts and pin them up to a display board in the Sadler Center near paintings by Jeanne Weaver, Todd Weaver’s mother.
Beginning at the Wren Building on Sunday night, the Student Assembly lined both sides of the walkways around the Sunken Garden with these luminaries and their messages, such as “I’ll never forget how many American flags I saw in my neighborhood, my town, and the country after 9/11.”
The evening’s remembrance ceremony began with the Wren bell ringing seven times in memory of the seven members of the William & Mary family who lost their lives in the World Trade Center that day: Alysia Christine Burton Basmajian ’00, James Lee “Jimmy” Connor ’85, Michael Hardy Edwards ’90, Mark Gavin “Lud” Ludvigsen ’91, Christopher William Murphy MBA ’98, James Brian Reilly ’98 and Gregory J. Trost ’97. Then, their names were read by Chon Glover, assistant to the president for community initiatives and chief diversity officer.
Reveley spoke of the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the sacrifice of two William & Mary alumni who lost their lives in the wars that followed, 1st Lt. Donald “Ryan” McGlothlin ’01 and Weaver. McGlothlin, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate and star chemistry student at W&M, left his doctoral studies at Stanford University following 9/11 to join in the U.S. Marines. He was killed in an ambush in Iraq in 2005.
“Lieutenants McGlothlin and Weaver were natural leaders with tremendous ability and huge promise,” Reveley said. “They drew people to them. They represented what we hope for in members of our community. At great sacrifice to their other opportunities and to their personal safety, they responded to the call they felt obliged to respond to. Looking back over the past decade, while much has changed, among the constants is this. William and Mary people continue to serve their communities and their country in myriad ways. I believe they always will.”
After the William & Mary Choir performed “What Wondrous Love is This,” faculty, staff and students, as well as members of Weaver’s family, presented selected readings from people including Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Kofi Annan, Jon Stewart ’84 and Tony Blair. They also read from the works of indomitable spirits such as Anne Frank, Helen Keller, and Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel before closing with Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s calls for truth and reconciliation.
The William & Mary Choir led those attending in singing “America the Beautiful,” before the crowd walked over to the American Beech tree planted in memory of Weaver, where a candlelight ceremony was held.
“We come together tonight to light candles not for the dead, but in celebration of those of you who gave so much that in one short year, a lasting study abroad award has been established and will begin in October to be realized by students in William & Mary to allow them to study abroad,” said Donn Weaver, Todd Weaver’s father, who shared his appreciation for William & Mary and the Student Athletic Advisory Council (SAAC) for helping establish the First Lieutenant Todd W. Weaver Memorial Endowment.
SAAC raised between $30,000 and $35,000 for the endowment through the sale of wristbands and their "One Tribe. One Family" campaign. Overall, approximately $50,000 was raised for the endowment, which was established in a resolution adopted by the Board of Visitors last spring. The income received from the endowment will provide study-abroad opportunities for William & Mary students interested in government and international relations.
“It is absolutely remarkable to find a family that has worked so hard to find the right way to turn their own tragedy, a tragedy for people of the college and the country, to such a positive end,” said John McGlennon, the chair of the government department before reading the BOV’s resolution. “Because of what they have done, they have not only exceeded all of the goals that they have set -- and they set very ambitious goals -- but they have managed to provide opportunities that will not only allow students to travel and to take study abroad, but to keep the legacy of Todd Weaver in our minds and hearts.”