Distributed September 11, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel
World Trade Center
Text of President Simmons’ remarks to campus gathering
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, Brown President Ruth J. Simmons addressed brief remarks to faculty, students and staff who had assembled in The Salomon Center for Teaching. More than 1,200 members of the campus community attended, hundreds listening to an overflow broadcast on The College Green and in nearby classrooms. The text of President Simmons’ remarks follows.
Today’s attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, domestic airlines and other sites have shaken us all deeply. As events unfolded rapidly, we have tried to determine how we might assist our faculty, students, and staff during this moment of despair and grief. There have been no easy answers.
First, with regard to the suspension of activities at the College, we determined that at this moment of confusion, it might be useful for us to remain in place, continuing work to the extent possible but, more importantly, being available to address the needs of our community as they were made manifest. In the course of the day, we have moved from shock and despair, to grief and disbelief. We have become aware more than ever of our helplessness against the sinister force of hatred. Inevitably the loss of life, estimated at varying levels but in the tens of thousands, will touch upon those whom we know and love. We do not yet know the full extent of the loss to this community, but this information will unfold in the coming days.
We have asked ourselves what we should do in the face of this immense tragedy. In a moving prayer at noon today, Janet Cooper-Nelson helped us to understand the need for prayerfulness and thanksgiving for the sacredness of life. When mankind becomes indifferent to life, there is no limit to the horror that he is willing to inflict on others, including those who are completely innocent of wrongdoing. We understand more than ever the need to sustain in ourselves as a nation a deep and abiding respect for the worth of human life. We need not only to instill this respect in our young but we need ourselves to be more ardent practitioners of respect every day of our lives.
At moments like this, I become aware more than ever that access to education in its broadest sense can make an immense difference in the future of our civilization. We can focus on educating ourselves about ourselves, if we so desire, but far more important is to educate ourselves about others. There are regions of the world that we understand not. There are peoples of the world that we care not to know. There are communities in our very midst from which we turn away. Turning away is not a solution. While it is too early to say who is to blame for the horror visited upon the nation today, we can surmise that this horror is the result of a misbegotten scheme to call attention to some cause, some offense, some grievance. One of the powerful things we can do to counter this kind of event is to use peaceful venues of debate and grievance. We can make every effort to learn how to abate conflict and how to repair breeches in human accord.
It is difficult to destroy when one cares. We need to practice caring. Caring about the children who are born to want. Caring about the injustice in our midst. Caring about righteousness and integrity. Whatever befalls us, it is our stubborn resistance to despair and our caring disposition that elevates and, in the end, rescues us.
This is a place of privilege. I speak now not about the assets of the place nor about the safety of the place. I speak of the privilege of living in a caring community. Let us never forget how privileged we are. Let us never forget to fight to preserve that spirit of caring. Let us not be ashamed to care. Let us honor those taken away with such brutal force by extending that caring to those nations not known to us, those peoples far away from us, those communities different and yet near to us.