Today’s ceremony will resemble the University-wide vigil attended by over 3,000 one year ago: University President Lawrence H. Summers will deliver the main address, followed by readings and music representing different religions.
This ceremony comes after months of preparation, beginning with the formation of an ad hoc committee under the United Ministries last spring.
While the logistics are similar to those of last year’s Sept. 11 ceremony, the tone will be noticeably different.
“Last year we were still absorbing the shock. Now we are reflecting on what it means and who we will become,” said Chaplain of Harvard College Mark D.W. Edington.
In addition to shaking the country’s sense of security, the terrorist attacks have forced a reexamination of American values, Summers said in an interview yesterday.
“I think it has been a reminder to a new generation that the values of our community are things that are bitterly opposed by some and are things that cannot be taken for granted,” Summers said.
In the face of these difficult questions, Summers said, he hopes the ceremony will provide some guidance.
The ceremony will be non-denominational, drawing on many religious traditions.
Taha B.H. Abdul-Basser, a graduate student adviser to the Harvard Islamic Society, will be one of three speakers to speak before Summers. Swami Tyagananda, president of United Ministry at Harvard, and Bernard Steinberg, executive director of Hillel, will also address the crowd.
At last year’s Sept. 11 vigil, Abdul-Basser spoke about the “dignity and integrity” of the Islamic tradition and said he plans to give a similar talk today.
But he said that after a year in which Muslims have repeatedly faced discrimination, the message is even more significant.
“My message may go beyond merely condemning the attacks to try to address things that have taken place between then and now and perhaps more importantly, things that have yet to take place,” he said.
A handful of students will read religious passages addressing hope and remembrance.
Matthew M. Mulder ’05, a Christian student who is a member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship, said last night that he had not yet decided on a verse but would probably choose something from Revelations or Second Corinthians.
“I just hope that we can come together as a religious community at Harvard to recognize the gravity of what happened last year, but also to give a word of hope for the future based on the knowledge that there are things that transcend the world that can give us hope,” Mulder said.
Between the two sets of readings, members of the University choir will perform a piece that seeks to unite various faiths.
Composed by Carson Cooman ’04, the piece involves texts from Jewish, Christian, Buddhism, Muslim and Baha’i traditions.
“I tried to render the texts in a coherent fashion to make a mosaic that brought them all together,” Cooman said.
Edington said that despite the chaos of move-in, registration and the ongoing Freshman Week, it is important that the community takes time to come together.
It will be in this spirit that the bells of Memorial Church will not ring at 8:46 a.m.—though bells throughout the nation will toll at this time, exactly a year after the first plane hit the North Tower.
Edington said that at Harvard, in contrast, the bells are traditionally reserved for the start of a ceremony and so they will ring, instead, at noon.
The ringing of the church bells will be followed by blasts on a shofar and the call of a muezzin.
“We are part of many communities but this is a time for us all to be together,” Edington said.
Few Houses have organized special activities beyond the University ceremony, in part because of ongoing move-in efforts.
“I expect our students will join the general body of students in the Yard,” said Eliot House Master Lino Pertile.
Lowell House, however, along with a number of other area institutions, will toll its bells at 8:46 a.m.
Lowell will also show the two-hour PBS documentary “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero,” which is being rebroadcast nationally tomorrow night, in its Junior Common Room.
Leverett House Master Howard Georgi ’68 said he has planned only informal activities for his students.
“We have invited students to the Master’s Residence any time in the evening if they want to watch TV or simply hang out,” Georgi wrote in an e-mail.
Adams has designated its Upper Common Room as a quiet place for students to gather in the morning, though it will not hold any structured activities there.
Along with Lowell House and many cities throughout the nation, the City of Cambridge will ring its City Hall bells at 8:46 a.m.
Community members will then proceed to City Hall, where city officials and members of fire, police and honor guards will speak. Members of the Cambridge Fire Department will perform Taps.
The day will culminate with a vigil along the Charles River beginning at 7:45 p.m. Instead of candles, city officials will distribute over 2,000 glowsticks.
“This will be a silent vigil. There is no ceremony planned—this is a reflective time,” said city spokesperson Ini Tomeu.
Tomeu said she is not certain how good the attendance will be, given the number of other services already planned.
But she said the number of Cantabrigians in attendance tonight is not important.
“This is a tribute to those who have lost their lives,” she said. “And to those who risk them every day.”
-Staff writer Jessica E. Vascellaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.