Long-stemmed carnations, along with prayers and healing words, were offered to mourners during the Remembrance Program for victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks held at the Center for the Arts' Main Stage Theater Thursday afternoon.
Nearly 1,500 students, faculty and staff gathered to cope with the tragic loss of lives, and to honor the efforts of public servants still working in crisis cities.
The memorial service featured spiritual readings from Christian, Jewish and Muslim community leaders, and an address by university President William R. Greiner.
"The goal of this Remembrance Program was to give everyone a chance to sit back and think," said Dennis Black, vice president of Student Affairs and main coordinator of the event.
Representatives of local emergency services, including the Buffalo, Amherst and University Police Departments, the commissioner of the Buffalo Fire Department, university health and medical representatives, and an ROTC cadet set a solemn tone for the memorial, offering their orisons.
One by one they stepped to the podium and prayed in honor of the victims and their families, colleagues in the crisis cities, and national leaders, punctuated by the audience responding in unison, "Give us comfort and strength as we remember."
Following the heartfelt words were the soulful harmonies of the UB Gospel Choir, lifting those in attendance with the song "Healing." Other musical performances included the Buffalo Chips, who sang "That Lonesome Road," the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's, with "America the Beautiful," and bagpiper Brian Eckenrode's rendition of "Coming Home" to close the ceremony.
A theme of peace united the spiritual leaders' words. Reverend Patrick Keleher of UB's Newman Center read an excerpt from Isaiah 2, instructing followers to "beat swords into plowshares"; Rabbi Shay Mintz quoted "To everything there is a season" from Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament; and Professor Othman Shibly recited Al Fatiha from the Qur'an, a prayer commonly spoken in times of struggle.
Greiner opened his address with a excerpt from scholar John Donne: "... Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
The president's speech reflected on the tragic consequences of Tuesday's attacks, both as at the university and around the nation, including the resulting natural impulses toward anger and vengeance.
"As a nation, we will first deal with the suffering of our citizens, then we will turn to restoring our wounded city and our wounded psyche," said Greiner. "But very soon - indeed already - our thoughts will turn to pursuit of justice, of retribution, of revenge - for surely anger is already seething among us."
Urging restraint and sensibility in behavior towards Arab and Muslim students within the university community, Greiner said, "We, on this campus, must be especially concerned about our responses to this horror."
"We are much richer for being a multi-ethnic, multi-religious community," he continued. "We must treasure and protect that aspect of our community. The suspicion - and perhaps it may be fact - will be that these acts of terror were committed by persons from, or connected to what is sometimes called the Islamic World. If that may be so, then know that these acts are also a desecration of Islamic faith and culture."
After the memorial, Greiner expressed sorrow for his students.
"For many students, this is a numbing, shattering event; it is important to do as many things like this as we can," he said.
"I feel sorry for [the student population]," said Greiner. "I think people of my generation would have hoped our students and children would not have this put upon them."
Following the event, students were reflective and subdued. A memorial book was placed outside the theater, and over a hundred students waited in line to add their signature to its pages. The memorial book will eventually be moved into the Student Union to give more students the opportunity to extend their condolences.
"We took a second to remember we're here together, to help each other," said Rich Riccobono, a fifth year student in the classics department. "I couldn't think of any words [to sign in the book], so I just drew a peace sign."
"It is really nice that we got to pay our respects," said Michelle Fox, a sophomore theater major.
"One thing I thought was really excellent was Greiner's speech," said Claudia Casciani, a sophomore political science major. "I thought it was really needed because this campus is so diverse."
Event organizers also were satisfied with the service.
"It couldn't have been better," said Black. "We basically organized it in 24 hours. ... When people have a need to do something, everyone comes together."
Bill Regan concurred. "Everyone we asked to participate in this Remembrance Program said 'Yes' without reservation or hesitation."
"This clearly had a tremendous impact on the students," said Regan. "Greiner's remarks were particularly very appropriate."
Greiner ended his speech with three simple, yet effective, words: "Salaam, Shalom, Peace."