Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman reflects on 10-year anniversary of 9/11


Credit: Marin Axtell

For Whitman College students, Sunday, Sept. 11 was a day that began and ended in song.

Songs from many religious traditions were featured at an interfaith service held at Walla Walla’s First Congregational Church. The service was conducted by the Interfaith Amigos, a trio composed of spiritual leaders from the three Abrahamic religions. The church choir and Whitman’s Chamber Singers both performed during the service.

Whitman’s Religious and Spiritual Life Coordinator Adam Kirtley, was the organizational force behind bringing the Interfaith Amigos to Walla Walla on the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Kirtley contacted Imam Jamal Rahman, Pastor Don Mackenzie and Rabbi Ted Falcon, the members of the Interfaith Amigos. The group came together in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Their work focuses largely on the importance of honest interfaith conversation in healing the rift caused by 9/11.

“[The office] felt compelled, with it being the 10th anniversary [of the September 11 attacks], to engage more intentionally,” Kirtley said, talking about his efforts to produce a series of special commemorative events.

The anniversary was marked by the worship service, a lecture by the Interfaith Amigos and a candlelight vigil.

The service included songs and prayers from three different religions, giving almost everyone in attendance something with which to connect. Kirtley felt it was important to avoid a primarily Christian service with token elements of Islam and Judaism. Instead, sections of the service were dedicated to Christianity, Islam and Judaism, respectively.

“I’m proud of Whitman and the [First Congregational] church,” said Jan Eyestone, a community member present at the service.

Sophomore Rania Mussa, an intern at the Office of Religious and Spiritual life, found the union of the three faiths a special and unique experience.

“[It was a] great, once-in-a-lifetime thing. Usually people are trying to do the opposite [of unification],” she said.

During their afternoon lecture, the Interfaith Amigos sang their theme song, which incorporates the unifying philosophies of their respective religions. They also discussed in more detail the difficulties of interfaith work, as well as its importance.  Interspersed with humorous anecdotes, the lecture focused on the core values of each faith and their interconnectivity.

“It’s a troubled world. If we didn’t know it before 9/11, we know now,” said Pastor Mackenzie.

And in the evening at the candlelight vigil, a moment of silence was ended by a solemn and warm rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Junior Abby Salzer organized the vigil.  Salzer, who is from New York City, felt that a memorial was important for students living in the Northwest who may not have been directly affected by the attacks. She also wanted to create a supportive space for those dealing with loss.

“I remember every single second of that day,” Salzer said about the September 11 attacks.

Many touching stories were shared among the nearly one hundred people who showed up for the vigil.   Despite the passage of 10 years, almost everyone who attended the memorial had an acute knowledge of where they were when the World Trade Center fell.

“It shocks me that the first-year students were eight years old on the date,” said Kirtley. “For the post-9/11-era generation, it’s a fairly abstract historical event.”

Despite, or perhaps because of, its abstract yet collective sense of loss and sadness, 9/11 holds a prominent place in many students’ lives.

“I didn’t lose somebody, but I’ll hold a candle for somebody else,” said first-year Sam Fischer.

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