CUA Remembers: A Vigil of Hope

Remarks by Stephen E. Schatz

Undergraduate Student Government President 2001-2002

“Message of Hope”


 On Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, America was changed forever.  With the surreal destruction of the World Trade Center towers, the attack on the Pentagon, and the downing in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the American people were awakened.  Americans around the country were transfixed at their television sets as if watching a Hollywood drama.  However, this wasn’t a movie, this was real.  Those were real planes crashing into our most symbolic structures, those were real terrorists; this was real.  The tragedy was so real, yet so harrowing!

Take a moment now to remember where you were and the sensations you felt after hearing about the “Attack on America.” Who were you with? How did you feel? Who did you pray for? How long did you cry? You will never forget that day.  It has become a part of us all.

I personally heard the news when I entered my politics class, where I was told that New York was under attack and that the World Trade Center Towers had collapsed.

I went cold. I felt empty instantaneously.  I couldn’t feel my legs nor could I feel my body. I was an imprisoned spirit and as white as a ghost. Being from the city, the towers were more than images on a postcard, they were my everyday life.  Their destruction was simply unimaginable.  Immediately I became speechless, as I felt a huge pit growing in my stomach. I feared the worst and even today after being consoled I still fear!

It’s a war like no other – it was an attack on America by enemies using our own planes.  When watching the pictures of plane after plane hitting our American symbols of economic and military might, we could only wonder what might be next. In an instant we lost all sense of security.  Our blanket was uncovered and our eyes were opened to a new world of distrust and chaos.

Our security was lost, yet Americans did not succumb to the wishes of its enemies. We united! We stood behind each other!  We were and still are determined not to lose hope and give in to our attackers.  The fracture of the Pentagon did not fracture the spirit of America.

The feeling of helplessness had become a spirit of determinism.  Donation after donation poured into D.C. and New York by millions of Americans who just wanted to do something.  We did not just stay on the sidelines. We got involved in the struggle of right and wrong.  Everyday citizens became heroes beyond measure.

As a university we ran shuttles to local blood centers, since students eagerly wanted to donate blood in order to help the victims of this senseless disaster.  As a campus we united for mass in the Basilica, not once, but twice.  Instinctively we were called to God in search of answers, in search of togetherness, and in search of hope.  Our highest church leaders celebrated together with us and led us in prayer and reflection.  We came together to reflect, to unite, to honor the fallen and to support the victims and their families. 

Tonight, we gather again to remember the ones lost in this very special vigil.  We need to grieve; we need to be together in order to move forward from this grave American tragedy and to seek God’s great guidance.

Tuesday’s cowardly attack struck our symbols of freedom; the resolve of this country has been tested, and as President Bush so boldly stated, “we shall pass this test.”  This attack did not dim the flame of the American spirit, but only made it burn brighter!

This attack has united this country around the values on which it was founded, its pursuit of justice, its need for understanding of diversity, and its belief in hope.  As we eulogize the dead, we have to move on and carry forth our founding principles by striving for justice.

As a university we have to pray for the lost, pray for the living, and remember, remember always this inhumane travesty.  For this attack was not only against us, but was an assault against the world.  If we submit to fear, the terrorists have won; they want us to become dispirited; they want us to lose our freedom and our values.

As Americans we need to support each other.  As the President mobilizes the military into appropriate action, we need to support them in their fight for freedom, in our fight for freedom.  We must strive for justice to show respect for humanity.  But our response must be proportional.  We mustn’t aggravate this precarious situation with vengeance, for if we do, then this cycle of terror will never end.  We need to seek understanding to end this terror.  In the short term we need to cut off the head of the hydra, but we have to be prepared to do more, to increase understanding and promote peace, or more heads will grow, and more terror will be the consequence. 

We have all been hurt in this most tragic act.  And only together can we get through it. So support each other, console each other and pray.

Let us seek justice, not vengeance.

Let us seek understanding over ignorance.

Let us seek hope not despair.

Have hope in yourself.

Have hope in your fellow Americans and allies.

And most importantly, have hope in God! For He is truly the only one who can unite us all.

God Bless us all, as seek to discern his will in this most difficult time, and if us the strength to follow it.

God Bless The Catholic University of America.

And God Bless the United States of America.”