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Patriot Day 2003: Lowering of the Flags

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

15th Street and Sage Avenue — 8:46 a.m.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Good morning.

Thank you for joining us as we begin this day — the second anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 — with solemn ceremony and reflection. This morning, we gather with unbowed spirits, to remember and honor all those who perished — and those who survived — that tragic day.

Yesterday, I was in Washington, D.C. It was a beautiful day. It was, as you would expect, impossible not to remember that beautiful September day two years ago, when men and women working at their desks, along with the passengers and crew aboard American Airlines flight 77, lost their lives when that plane was crashed into the Pentagon.

Moments earlier that morning, two airliners out of Boston had been flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

And later, United Flight 93 out of Newark would descend upon the verdant farmland of Pennsylvania, thwarting a planned third attack — on the White House.

Words and images from that day are burned into my memory, as they are into yours.

So, I stand here filled with these fresh recollections of the fear and grief and heroism that marked that day, a day which still stirs our remorse and strengthens our resolve.

I also stand here with renewed hope for the future of this troubled world. Because I believe that science and technology — our purpose and our enterprise — offer a bright beacon of hope for the future security and well-being of all the world's people, when intelligently, ethically, and sensitively applied.

And, I recall with pride, how, here at Rensselaer that day, people waited for hours to give blood. How, on that afternoon, the students and faculty and staff gathered at the Alumni Sports and Recreation Center to gather strength and solace from each other.

In that great overflow gathering, we spontaneously joined hands — and there, as people of different nations, diverse faiths, and divergent persuasions and perspectives, we expressed our readiness to take on the new and awesome ethical, economic, and cultural challenges into which we and the world had been plunged.

As we reflect upon the opportunity, and the privilege, to apply our talents to strengthen our country, and for the good of mankind, let us respect the sacrifice being made by those in our military who are in harm’s way today in a cause meant to provide for the safety of us all.

Two years later, we still struggle with those challenges and seek to find meaning in events we do not fully understand.

Today there will opportunities for members of our campus community to commemorate this anniversary individually and together.

At noon we will be summoned by the ringing of bells to stop what we are doing and observe a moment of silence and personal reflection.

Later, there will be an opportunity to share a meal on the Hassan Quad and to hear a faculty panel discuss "Historic Memorials, Commemoration, and Remembrance."

I hope everyone will take part in all of these events.

Above all, let this day's recollections motivate us — as individuals and as members of this university community — to lead lives of purpose, to care for one another, and to use our scientific and technological discoveries to strengthen our country, and to better our world.

Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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