By Michael Battista
While the sun set behind Loser Hall on Sunday, Sept. 11, the twilight sky shone red, white and blue as people made their way to the College’s 9/11 candlelight vigil.
The Loser Hall patio became a place of remembrance, as hundreds of students came to pay their respects to those who lost their lives 15 years ago in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Penn. It was only one of many similar ceremonies taking place across the country on Sunday.
College President R. Barbara Gitenstein opened the ceremony by reminding those in attendance not only of the loss of life that day, but of the subsequent losses of both members of the military and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those killed in attacks since 9/11 — such as the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., last year and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France.
“We must learn to live together, to learn from one another, to listen to one another,” Gitenstein said.
The vigil also included words from alumnus Lou Giaccardo (’89), who escaped from his office on the 87th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
Giaccardo told his account of the day, from his escape, keeping himself and others calm during his descent from the South Tower and his motivation to get home to see his son’s second birthday with his own eyes.
He continued to talk about the new One World Trade Center, also known as Freedom Tower, which stands in Lower Manhattan next to the 9/11 Memorial.
“May we never forget 9/11, but in terms of rebuilding we have truly moved on,” Giaccardo said during his speech. “We no longer refer to the site as Ground Zero. The new World Trade Center was built with love and passion… Because of this dedication at this site, where there was once hate, there is now love. Where there was once destruction, there is now construction, and where there was once evil, there is now hope.”
Giaccardo, who was a founder of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity at the College, said it was his first time giving a talk to his alma mater. His brotherhood came in force, with over a hundred Phi Kappa Tau active members attending the event
“It was a very moving and emotional experience,” Giaccardo said. “Seeing friends that I graduated with… made it more special. And my fraternity brothers were here, so it was a great honor to be here today.”
The vigil also included the lighting of candles held by nearly everyone in attendance and a few moments of silent remembrance.
Both Gitenstein and Giaccardo were pleased to see many students come out for the event, even after 15 years had passed.
“It’s very special,” Giaccardo said. “I was glad to see that many people out here today to remember it… and my message, I hope… the younger generation carries it along.”
Ryan Armstrong, a junior marketing major and member of Phi Kappa Tau, believes Giaccardo’s message came out well.
“I believe, based on Joe’s story, (the message is) to just go out of your way to help people when you can,” Armstrong said. “Because you (have to) do anything you can to counteract any bad in the world.”
As the ceremony came to a close, Vice President of Student Affairs Amy Hecht introduced a video about the children who were born on 9/11. For many of the students at the vigil, they were young on the day of the attacks. Although these children were only starting their lives, they have grown up and made a promise to do good and help others.
As everyone left, the student’s candles extinguished and while they held their small American flags, Gitenstein shared what she thought the ceremony means to this campus.
“We have to counteract hate,” Gitenstein said. “That was a day of hate and it has been counteracted with hope, love, caring and listening.”