A Day of Remembrance
Dean of Students David Leedy writes about his experience of 9/11 and the aftermath in the city.
Today, September 11, is a day of remembrance—for me personally and for the King’s community. This morning, Eduardo Miranda, a junior studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics, erected a wall in the King’s lobby that contains 2977 small American flags—one for every 9-11 victim. It is a vivid reminder of the tragedy that took place 12 years ago just steps away from our campus.
The morning of the attacks, I was at the United Nations with six King’s students, attending a prayer breakfast that marked the opening of the General Assembly. The guest speaker, Miroslav Volf, spoke on how the “will to embrace” can help us overcome hatred and animosity in the world; meanwhile, terrorists were flying planes into the World Trade Center. The irony.
The prayer breakfast ended abruptly and we were ushered out (due to concern that the UN may have been a terrorist target). When we got onto First Avenue, we weren’t prepared for what we saw. As we looked south, a massive cloud of smoke and ash covered Lower Manhattan. The City was eerily quiet, except for the occasional siren of a fire truck or police car.
Confusion and uncertainty were in the air. We heard rumors of other attacks on bridges and buildings. The Empire State Building, which housed the King’s campus at the time, was shut down, so our little crew wandered the streets. We stepped into an Irish pub to catch the news, only to see the Towers come crashing down. It didn’t seem real; it felt more like a scene from Die Hard.
Eventually, we ended up on Second Avenue, handing out water to those who were walking up from the Financial District. They had hollow, shocked looks their faces. They marched like zombies away from Ground Zero, dazed and disoriented, none of them saying a word. Many were covered head to toe in ash and looked more like ghosts than people. We offered water and prayed with a number; we felt helpless to do much more.
In the aftermath of 9-11, the College published a memorial magazine called “Fallen But Not Forgotten” which featured stories of those affected by the attacks, as well as a Christian perspective on terrorism and death. Over one million were printed. Armies of volunteers handed them out all over the City and the country.
King’s students and staff personally handed 25,000 to New Yorkers. When people saw that the magazine was about 9-11, they eagerly received them. Many asked for additional copies for friends or coworkers. In the aftermath of such a horrendous crisis, it was moving to see King’s students play a role in reaching out to fellow New Yorkers and comforting them.