September 11, 2002
Purdue President Martin C. Jischke gave this address Wednesday (9/11) during a service in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Sept. 11 searching has pointed way to true heroism
On September 11 one year ago, Welles Crowther was a 24-year-old equities in New York City. He worked in one of the most glamorous business locations in The nation the 104th floor of the south tower at the World Trade Center.
When the first airplane struck, Welles called his parents and left a simple message: "Mom. I want you to know that I'm okay."
During the next hour Welles was more than "okay." He was spectacular rushing from floor to floor rescuing dozens of people.
Among them was Lin Young. Lin told CNN she and a group of people were injured, dazed, frightened and confused in the fiery, smoky darkness.
They believed they were trapped.
That's when Welles appeared.
According to CNN he burst on the scene. He helped the injured people get up and follow him. Through the dim light he found the staircase and led Lin and others to safety, all the while carrying an injured woman on his back.
When that group reached safety, Welles went back up the towering inferno.
He found Judy Wein, her arm broken, her ribs cracked, a lung punctured. Welles led Judy and another group of survivors to safety.
"If he hadn't come back, I wouldn't have made it," Judy told CNN.
Last March, New York City police paid a visit to the Crowther home. They brought a message.
Welles Crowther's body had just been found, buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center towers.
Judy Wein needed only two words to describe Welles to CNN: "incredible hero."
We are in awe of such selfless courage.
The attacks that took place one year ago were initiated out of hate. But people in New York, people in Washington, people on a plane over central Pennsylvania, proved that love and courage triumph over hate and fear.
We are gathered this evening in commemoration. We come together to remember what no one can forget.
September 11 is scarred into our memory
But what we are really remembering tonight is more than a date. We are remembering the people we lost people like Welles Crowther, people just like you and me.
They left their homes that bright Tuesday morning expecting nothing but the quiet routine of an ordinary day.
They were people like Kevin Hannaford, who, The New York Times tells us, quietly kissed his sleeping 2-year-old son good-bye; held his pregnant wife and told her one more time that he loved her.
Eileen Hannaford watched her husband melt into the early morning darkness on September 11. She never saw him again.
We will never forget Kevin Hannaford and all the people we lost on September 11. We will never forget the sorrow of children, family and friends who were left behind.
It is right for us to remember whom we lost and what we lost that day.
It is right for us to think of people like Welles Crowther as incredible heroes.
For the past year there has been much talk about heroes.
We need heroes in our lives.
We need people we can look up to and admire; people who can inspire us to do better than we have done; to be more than we are; to work harder than we ever have before.
But our need for heroes sometimes causes us to look in all the wrong places.
We mistake fame for heroism; wealth for heroism; power for heroism.
The stories of people we are remembering tonight are filled with true heroism. They are stories of people like Welles Crowther.
And they are also stories of everyday people leading everyday heroic lives.
Sometimes heroism is quiet. Sometimes it is simple. Sometimes it is just one person stepping up to help another in a Time of need.
The New York Times has published a book titled "Portraits of Grief." It is a collection of short stories about the people who lost their lives on September 11.
It is a hard book to open. It becomes a hard book to close. We are quickly drawn into the stories of one heroic life after another.
There is Colleen Deloughery, who stopped one day to talk to a homeless mother in a commuter station and in the weeks afterward brought her a stroller, a carrier, clothes, food and milk.
There is Michael Esposito, a lieutenant in a fire rescue Squad, who was "just a regular guy." A regular guy who regularly volunteered to check the soundness of neighbors' roofs, who shoveled snow For the elderly.
There was Wendy Faulkner, who spent thousands of dollars purchasing clothes she carefully packed in boxes and shipped to orphanages around the world.
There was Jorge Velazguez, who cooked big pots of rice and beans and stew. On Saturdays he traveled with his wife through the down-and-out sections of New York City, ladling food to the Homeless.
There was Scott McGovern. Thirteen years ago a struggling, single mother in Staten Island awoke on Christmas morning to find Matchbox cars and a snowsuit for her young son lying outside the door. It was a very merry Christmas for that small family. The woman never discovered where the gifts came from until last September when she read a memorial about her old friend Scott McGovern.
The memorial described one of his many acts of kindness, saying: "He knew a woman with a toddler, and on Christmas Eve ..." The woman read no further.
You can't read through tears.
Heroes do more than rush through burning skyscrapers to save desperate lives.
Heroes listen to people when they're troubled. Heroes lend a hand with the burdens of every day. Heroes volunteer their time to help people, organizations and communities.
We can all be heroes. We all have within us the power to be a hero in someone else's life.
George Bernard Shaw said: "People do not become great by doing great things. "They do great things because they are great."
There is great kindness inside us all. We must let it out to do great things in the lives of others.
In 1950, Bertrand Russell won the Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he (championed) humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought."
Russell said: "It may seem to you conceited to suppose that you can do anything important toward improving the lot of mankind. But this is a fallacy. "You must believe that you can help bring about a better world.
"A good society is produced only by good individuals. Everybody can do something toward creating in his own environment kindly feelings rather than anger, reasonableness rather than hysteria, happiness rather than misery."
Among our themes at Purdue is service. We call it service learning.
In fact, there can be no service without learning. And it is our hope that at Purdue, there will be no learning without service.
Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, said: "Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth."
Last September 11, then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke of a pain and loss that was "more than any of us (could) bear."
It is no easier to bear today. The pain is too much within us.
Today, there are large and powerful issues for the world to consider. But the path to peace for each one of us will come through serving others.
Educator Booker T. Washington said: "If you want to lift up yourself, lift up someone else."
Helen Keller, unable to see or hear, led a magnificent life and inspired others to triumph in their own personal struggles.
"I am only one," Keller said. :I cannot do everything. But still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do."
As we commemorate the people we lost on September 11, we should remember the message they would send to us today. That message is wrapped in the way so many of these quiet heroes lived their lives.
Their message to us is clear: We can make a better world. We can do it by making the world better for one person at a time.
I believe that in the days and years ahead, each of us will do the something we can do over and over and over again.
The world changed forever on September 11.
It is now up to us to carry on and ensure that this change is for the better.