WILMINGTON — For many Wilmington College alumni, faculty and staff, the image of several hundred members of the campus community holding hands while encircling an area of Collett Mall evokes as powerful a memory as airplanes crashing into buildings on Sept. 11. 2001.
The photo was taken only a few hours after terrorists targeted iconic American structures leading to great loss of life and catapulting the nation into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was an impromptu gathering on that fateful day that resulted in the campus’ impressive response of caring for one another when emotions were so raw.
For students of 20 years ago, it was a watershed moment not unlike Pearl Harbor, the JFK assassination and Challenger explosion for previous generations. That photo taken by Randy Sarvis, director of public relations, appeared again in 2019 on social media, eliciting many there that day to share personal recollections of a moment seared into their collective psyche.
“I was standing somewhere in this circle on Sept. 11, 2001, praying with my classmates — I’m so thankful now that someone thought to snap this photo,” wrote the alum who posted the photo on Instagram two years ago. “TVs were still on carts (funny the details you recall) and I remember professors rolling them out into the common areas so we could watch the events unfold.
“What do you remember?” That question evoked an unprecedented response, some of which are included in the following:
• Tara Sheldon Lydy, a 1996 graduate and a Student Life employee at the time, recalled, “That day will forever be etched in my mind. That time at the Carillon, while incredibly sad, was also a powerful and visual moment of God’s peace, love, hope and community.”
• Brandi Walton, Class of ’04, also was in the circle. “I remember feeling very lost and helpless that day,” she said, “not really knowing what I should be doing or how I could be helping those who were hurting. It was a day I surely never will forget.”
• Chris Lundquist, also an ’04 alumnus, was there. “I teach high school history and I show this pic to my class,” he said. “The days following 9/11 represented America at its best.” Elizabeth Hudelson Walters, an alumna from 2004 was in the photography lab when the World Trade Tower attacks occurred. “I remember walking back into Marble Hall and all I could hear was silence except for the sound of everyone’s TVs.”
• Ka’Shira Thompson Myburgh, Class of ’02, was in sports psychology class when the first Twin Tower was hit. “I remember watching the second Tower being hit while sitting at the Village (campus apartments),” she said, noting she also was in the circle with her sorority sisters. “A day I’ll never forget.”
• Emeritus professor Dr. Gloria Flaherty, then a professor of education, was in the circle not knowing the fate of family members in New York City and Washington, D.C. “When I got back on campus from doing an observation in Xenia, there were a dozen Wilmington students waiting form me because they knew I had relatives in both places. They were there to be with me and for me — Wilmington College was and is a family!”
• Sarah Newton added, after reading the responses on social media, “This is why I love Wilmington College. I didn’t attend college here, but my 13-year-old son wants to.”