September 9, 2002

A message to the NYU community

Dear Fellow Members of the NYU Community,

A year ago, we all endured a day that altered our sense of personal well-being and safety, our notion of our place in the world, our image of the future, even the skyline we observe looking southward from the park at the heart of campus. The memories from that day are not merely vivid, they are indelible.

At a year's distance, we should take time to reflect on that grievous day.

That attack demolished one of the city's most recognizable spaces and snatched away thousands of innocent lives - including the lives of members of this community. Its impact was disorientingly massive in scope, and its cruelty was breathtaking.

Yet New Yorkers are at their best when things seem at their worst. The people of our city responded with valor, with compassion, with resolve. The men and women of our uniformed services came to be the world's embodiment of courage, fortitude and sacrifice. Our public leaders showed determination and conveyed the sense that even when the world had become mystifying and frightening, there were steady hands to guide us. Every New Yorker eagerly sought some way to help - by giving blood, by collecting clothes for rescue workers, by comforting the bereaved, and even by picking up hand tools and walking downtown to do what they could to pull life from the pile of debris.

On that day, everyone in the world became a New Yorker, and everyone in New York became a rescue worker. This was no less true for the men and women at New York University. I can think of no day when we have come together more closely. Students unhesitatingly opened their rooms to those who were displaced, prepared meals for emergency workers, and collected clothing for those at the World Trade Center. University staff worked tirelessly to provide care for students and to minimize disruption to our academic programs and operations. Faculty conducted teach- ins and seminars, and sought to do what we do best in a learning community: to try to craft understanding and knowledge out of the seemingly senseless, and to begin the thoughtful chronicle of this fateful time.

In New York's worst moment, we knew our finest hour.

In his address at last spring's Commencement, New York's Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, urged our graduates to stay in the city, saying, "The future is under construction here." That advice has been heeded - we have assembled one of the strongest and most selective freshman classes in our history, and those of us who were here before have stood fast.

I do not believe we were so much scarred by the events of 9/11 as bonded together, and on the foundation of the moral power surge that coursed through us all in its aftermath, we will build that future for ourselves, for this University, for this city, and for the world.

John Sexton