Students, faculty, and staff gathered at the Ramsey Center Thursday, attempting to make sense out of events of September 11 while offering consolation to distraught university community members.
Chancellor John Bardo, Reverend Rich Irwin of the Wesley Foundation, criminal justice professor Bernie Dougherty, and June Wytock of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center spoke on behalf of the Western Carolina University community.
“I thought it was an appropriate time and subject matter,” said graduate assistant Shannon Kondrab. “It helped to answer some direct questions that the news had been alluding to that students wanted clarified.”
The assembly began with a moment of silence, directed by Reverend Irwin.
Bardo then spoke, describing this week as a horrible and terrible time.
“We know that parents will not see their children any longer, because they had the audacity to go to work,” said Bardo, satirically.
Bardo said that he had never seen anything quite like what Americans have experienced this week.
He said that the terrorist acts brought to mind stories his parents had revealed about Pearl Harbor.
When explaining the essence of the Western community, Bardo referred to Lavern Allen, who was the first African-American to attend Western.
“She found friends, love and a community to accept her as a member,” said Bardo.
Bardo emphasized that the Western community does not discriminate. “That is not what we stand for.”
He ended by forewarning the audience that some members of the WCU community could be called to service.
“I realized the seriousness of the situation, but I didn’t expect the Chancellor to address the males in our student population with a message about the possibility of them leaving for war,” said sophomore Stacie Carter.
Dougherty spent 10 years in law enforcement and has seen terrorism first hand. He commented that he lost two friends in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103.
“This tragedy’s victims had nothing to do with any global crisis or conflict,” said Dougherty.
Law enforcement’s search for those responsible is the largest criminal investigation ever, and no stone will be left unturned, according to Dougherty.
Dougherty is assured that the U.S. will find out who is responsible, but adds that it will take time, significantly more time than Desert Storm did.
“We should not lash out when our minds are blurred with anger,” said Dougherty. “We are a nation of laws.”
June Wytock spoke in regards to people’s feelings and reactions toward the attacks.
“Grief is a normal reaction to a loss,” said Wytock.
People who have encountered a loss, according to Wytock, commonly experience shock, protest, disorganization and reorganization in no particular order.
She said that the healing process involves talking and comforting one another.
Reverend Irwin spoke once again, prior to questions and comments from the audience, by asking people to make, or at least offer, peace with those we know, as well as with strangers.
In response to the terrorist attacks, Yousef Benomran, the imam, or spiritual leader, of the Islamic community in Asheville said, “The people who did what they did are not true Muslims.”