Dear Men and Women of Fordham, The sudden strike from the skies that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center last Tuesday shattered the peace of a brilliant September morning and changed forever the way Americans, and New Yorkers in particular, will look at the world in the future. It will be many days before the full dimensions of this tragedy can be measured in political, economic and, most of all, human terms. As the names and faces of Tuesday’s casualties become known, our City will grieve for the fallen, and we will learn that many have close personal links to the Fordham University community. Fordham University has been for 160 years a New York City institution, and I am proud of the way our faculty, students and staff have responded over the past three days to the worst disaster in our City’s history.
I think of our students at Lincoln Center who organized teams of volunteers to give blood and responded to the needs of our neighbors at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital with clothing and other supplies. At Rose Hill the blood bank established in Millennium Hall became a center for our entire Borough of the Bronx, and the response from the Fordham University community was, literally, overwhelming. Within the University during these dreadful days faculty, students and staff have reached out in different ways to care for one another and we have found in our solidarity a source of strength at a time of extraordinary challenges, a ray of light in a moment of darkness.
I think of the counseling centers quickly established at both Lincoln Center and Rose Hill, the ready welcome given those students and staff who could not return home on Tuesday evening and, of course, the prayer vigils and liturgies that gathered us together, men and women of different religious traditions affirming our faith that this is still God’s world and He remains the Lord of our history. In the days ahead, we will grieve for those we have lost. We will also come to realize that we have lost our innocence, now that our nation, so long protected from the ravages of war, has been visited by the kind of terrorism that knows no borders.
Our immediate response as an academic institution must be to return, as best we can, as quickly as we can, to a state of normalcy in response to the calls of our civic leaders. As we move forward as a university community, we also need to seek a better understanding of the political and cultural roots of this monstrous evil and commit ourselves to work with others to build a world of peace and justice founded on a respect for the human dignity of all peoples. As a nation and as individuals, we must resist those instincts that might prompt us to strike out against the innocent. The contempt for human life demonstrated in these wholesale attacks on the innocent is a fundamental violation of all religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. If we are blinded by a desire for revenge and yield to racial and national stereotypes we become mirror images of our adversaries. Only by keeping faith in God and with one another will we prevail. God bless you, Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J. President