Fittingly, red, white and blue lights shone onto the Ritz Theatre stage this afternoon as Heidelberg and Tiffin universities came together in prayer, song and reflection to remember the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and celebrate our response as a nation.
Heidelberg alumnus Dr. Jaimie Orr, currently the dean of the School of Criminal Justice at TU, organized the event. Approximately 200 students, faculty, staff and community residents attended the ceremony, as did a number of uniformed law enforcement and military service personnel.
TU student leaders Steve Smolinsky and Whitney Reshonsky served as emcees for the event. Heidelberg’s Rita Barga and Dr. Samira Risheg offered prayers and readings for peace from the Jewish and Muslim faith traditions, respectively. TU’s a cappella group Up in the Air, under the direction of Brad Rees, performed Prayer of Being, and Heidelberg’s Singing Collegians, under the direction of Dr. Greg Ramsdell, performed Solla Sollew.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Tracy Elder, chaplain for the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office who volunteered at Ground Zero in Manhattan and in Shanksville, Pa., following the attacks.
“On Sept. 11, our nation faced the most devastating attack in our history. It was horrifying and tragic. (The terrorists) accomplished their goal of terrorizing our population—for a moment,” she said. “And then, we pulled together and helped one another. We are not weaker for it. We are stronger.”
Elder recalled departing Tiffin with three vans of volunteers, headed for Manhattan and Shanksville, and her own personal reaction standing amid the rubble at Ground Zero. What she experienced was “incomprehensible.”
“As I walked on the rubble, I felt the heat of the fire still burning below,” she said. She observed first responders, quiet, focused and determined to continue their work. Her thoughts turned to God and to individuals demonstrating acts of hope on site and at home.
“We helped and we healed,” Elder said. “You can change the world, and you did.” She heads back to Shanksville tonight, carrying the tears, comfort and hope of a community with her.
Campus Minister Paul Sittason Stark offered reflections and prayers for peace, justice and love.
A stirring rendition of Taps concluded the ceremony.