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September 13, 2001

Nordenberg, Council pause to reflect

Following their meeting yesterday, Senate Council members walked together to Heinz Memorial Chapel for a shared moment of silence.

It wasn't a memorial service. Rather, members of Senate Council — an advisory group of faculty, staff, students and administrators — were "quietly acknowledging a national tragedy, expressing respect for the victims and sorrow for their families, and reflecting on our shared future," said Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, who had proposed the gathering.

In a brief talk inside the chapel, Nordenberg noted that the larger repercussions of Tuesday's terrorist attacks will be the focus of professional interest at research universities such as Pitt for years to come, and appropriately so.

"But at this moment," he said, "I suspect most of us are dealing with the tragedy on a far more human level."

Nordenberg recalled talking on Tuesday with a distraught Pitt undergraduate whose father worked at the World Trade Center and whose uncle worked at the Pentagon. The young woman had no idea whether either one survived the attack.

On Wednesday morning, the student came to Nordenberg's office to report, tearfully but with profound relief, that her uncle had been working at the opposite end of the Pentagon from the attack site, and that her father was hospitalized in New York City but would be all right.

"I knew, even as we were talking, that for every happy story like that one there will be many, many more that will not have that kind of ending," Nordenberg said.

He recounted a subsequent conversation yesterday with Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson.

Nordenberg said Pederson told him he'd just gotten off the phone with a mutual friend of theirs, a colleague from another university, whose young daughter played on a soccer team with 15 other girls — 12 of whom lost parents in Tuesday's attacks.

Nordenberg said he suspects that, as the death toll rises and victims' names are released, "we will learn that people in this University community have been directly affected by this tragedy as well. I know that those people will be counting on us and their friends and colleagues within the University to be a source of comfort.

"I know that for me, and I hope for you, it is comforting to be part of an institution like this one, to know the good people who are here, to know that there are people who will stand with you and extend a helping hand."

With that, Nordenberg and his fellow Senate Council members stood silently for a minute or so, and then filed quietly out of the chapel.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 34 Issue 2

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