September 11, 2002
Today, as we reflect on the unspeakable losses that our country suffered one year ago, we are again staggered by the shock and the grief of losing so many, including eighteen Michigan alumni. Even those of us who are new here, recalling our experience of the national trauma in other parts of the country, now share in the collective bereavement of the University of Michigan family.
As individuals, we can find no words to express our sadnessall words undone, as the poet Grace Schulman writes in an upcoming issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review; All forms circle in smoke / all promises unravel / all pages torn to shreds and blown to drift in wind / whose words cannot reveal / the truth of what I've seen.
And yet, because we are part of a great center of learning, we must piece together the undone words. The events of September 11 have not ceased to stun us, but they must not silence us. Our shreds of understanding are small and hard won. But we persist, because a great university's faculty, staff, and student body must give voice to our nationsand our worldsunanswered questions. That is what the University of Michigan has done since its founding. That is what we have done throughout this past year, in pursuing important research and engaging in spirited academic discussion. That is what we will do today, in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint, as we remember the dead and come together for symposia, concerts, and special moments of reflection.
And, because we are not just an academic community, but a community in every good and decent sense of that word, we will support one another as we move forward. Last fall Newsweek visited the University to capture campus reaction to Septembers horrific events. Recently, I re-read that cover story, marveling at the strength, character, and compassion of the newest and youngest members of our community. The magazine noted that this generation of students had lived a lifetime of peace and prosperity but were now facing their defining moment. We are heartened that this University faced that moment in community, our richly diverse campus united in a common grief, yearning for a shared sense of hope. In that moment, Memories of the future alone / kept our hopes alive, as Fadhil al-Azzawi has written in his poem Listen, Noah!
Please join our whole community today in remembering those who were lost, including friends, relatives, and members of our extended University family, and in keeping our shared hopes alive. I invite you to attend the memorial events across campus, closing with the student-organized vigil on the Diag at 9 p.m.
Mary Sue Coleman
President, University of Michigan