Saturday, November 14, 2009

Faith Fishbowl

In September of 2001 I was working at Saint Mary's College, a small residential college. Zirpu called me on the morning of the 11th to tell me to turn on the TV; I watched images on the only station I could receive at the house and listened to NPR simultaneously. I continued to listen to the radio during my bucolic drive through county parks to get to work. I specifically remember Bob Edwards saying there had been a plane crash in Pennsylvania that, it was believed, had nothing to do with the World Trade Center planes.

Of course, once at the university, there was not a lot of work going on, for anyone. People hung out in each other's offices, talking, listening to online news broadcasts, trying to check CNN's website, which was crashing all day, for news updates. Everyone made and received "How are you? I'm just checking in" calls. Very few calls came in regarding financial aid, and I couldn't really concentrate on processing loans that day. I spent a lot of time looking out the window and listening to NPR online.

The college, which is Catholic and at that time had a lot of practicing Catholics in the student body, scrambled to put something together for the students to take comfort in. Directors of departments had been instructed to allow staff to attend, if any staff member wished to do so. Mass was held in the chapel, followed by a less-formal gathering in the courtyard in front. I attended part of this second event, which included the recitation of the Kaddish and of the Hail Mary.

After awhile I went back to my office to continue looking out the window. The field across from my office was green even in September - the college's intramural rugby teams played there - and the sky was blue, without any clouds. I felt like the faith of the youth in the courtyard had created a dome over the college, which is in a natural bowl, and that their god was looking over us all - even those of us who didn't believe.

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