After days of watching events unfold on television, students, faculty and community members congregated in Library Mall Friday mourning Tuesday's terrorist attacks in a gathering UW-Madison Police estimate at almost 20,000 people.
Afternoon classes were cancelled in accordance with President Bush's declaration for the day to be spent in mourning and reflection on the tragedy.
Interim Provost Gary Sandefur took a moment to express his own feelings of dismay at the gravity of the attacks.
'Those people were innocent bystanders caught in an act of aggression,' Sandefur said. '[This is] an American tragedy such as this country has never seen.'
Following Sandefur's introduction, Dane County Supervisor Ruth Anne Shore recited a poem expressing the country's sorrow over the event. Sandefur then called to those at the ceremony to come together and sing 'We Shall Overcome' and 'Amazing Grace.'
Associated Students of Madison Chair Jessica Miller addressed the students about the importance of dealing with the tragedy peacefully and of the racial prejudices that might arise from the extreme emotions provoked by the attacks.
'Like many of you, I have been plunged into shock,' Miller said. '[But] I implore each and every one of you not to give into feelings of retribution and hate.'
Miller expressed confidence at UW-Madison community's ability to unite and grieve together in peace.
Sociology Professor Joe Elder addressed the audience about the importance to grow stronger from this tragic experience.
'Today we are remembering those who died last Tuesday, and we can only pray that they did not die entirely in vain,' Elder said.
He expressed hope that the attacks would inspire countries around the world to unite and stop terrorism for good.
'Perhaps from this tragedy we can build a web with other countries to make [another] act like this impossible,' Elder said. 'Perhaps we can work together to build a world of justice.'
Elder's speech was interrupted by Christian religious demonstrators'three females aged 16, 19 and 20, all from Eugene, Ore., and none with any UW-Madison affiliation. The trio protested the memorial service, carrying signs that read 'Jesus soon to judge' and 'All that matters'you are headed for hell.' Police escorted the trio off the mall, and Elder continued praising the spirit of community in which the whole country has shared.
He emphasized the importance of peace, both in Madison and throughout the world.
'Those calling for war in the belief that a war of retribution will bring peace must remember that nothing kills innocent civilians like war,' Elder said. 'Each of us has an obligation to protect from harassment those in Madison or elsewhere with [a similar] background of religion as those who committed this act. We must protect the innocent from being blamed or punished.'