Penn remembers 9/11 with guest speakers, events

World Trade Center Memorial

Penn undergraduates were only adolescents and preteens when the United States suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history, but even through the eyes of a child, they can remember the dark day with crystal clarity.

Faye Cheng, a Wharton senior and vice president of the Undergraduate Assembly (UA), was in her sixth grade language arts class on Sept. 11, 2001, and can recall being sent home from school.

“It’s interesting how people distinctly remember, even though it was 10 years ago, exactly where they were at that point in time when it happened,” she says.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Penn students are gathering for a candlelight vigil, performances, guest speakers and a time for reflection.

On Sunday, Sept. 11, at 7:30 p.m., student singing groups, including Quaker Notes and the Penn Glee Club, will perform in Houston Hall. Organizers, including the UA, Penn Democrats and Republicans, the Muslim Student Association and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, will provide candles for the vigil and hand out American flags to those in the audience.

At 8 p.m., University Chaplain Charles “Chaz” Howard will offer poignant words and a moment of silence, followed by remarks from Penn President Amy Gutmann and a joint statement from student groups focusing on how 9/11 has affected the country and world over the past 10 years.

Howard says one of the most pleasing aspects of the 9/11 commemorations at Penn and around the country is that a day that was originally intended for destruction and division has transformed into a day emphasizing harmony and tolerance.

"I’m really encouraged by that, whether it’s our students coming together, various faith communities coming together, or people from different ethnic groups and nationalities coming together," he says. "It really is, to borrow from Scripture, a chance to see ‘beauty from ashes,’ which is a beautiful thing.”

The observance concludes with a reception in the Hall of Flags, where participants can reflect on the anniversary and the commemoration.

In addition, Penn Hillel has placed a posterboard in the main lobby asking, "Where were you on September 11?" and invites visitors to share their recollections.

A decade after America’s horrific day, Cheng says the anniversary is a way of remembering “the unity that we had as a nation.”

“I think it’s a reminder of always remembering what it means to live in a country based on the values of freedom and unity,” she says.

Originally published on September 8, 2011