After the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, University officials considered canceling family weekend but eventually opted not to.
Highlights of the past weekend's events, many of which were held at the Friday Center, included cookouts, a concert, dance performances and a historic campus walk. Even though the UNC-Southern Methodist University football game, which was supposed to be the central activity of the weekend, was canceled, other activities replaced it, and the weekend went on.
Melissa Jessen, a member of the UNC Parents Council and Family Weekend chairwoman, said the event's organizers were surprised by the high attendance in light of Tuesday's attacks.
"Families have turned out in droves, and it has been a great event overall," Jessen said.
Sheila Hrdlicka, Parents Council member and Family Weekend organizer, said the majority of the 750 families who registered attended the events. "The turnout was wonderful, and parents have stuck around longer than they ever have in the past."
Though Saturday's football game was postponed until Dec. 1, discussions titled "Understanding the Tragedy" and "Coping with the Tragedy" were held during that time in the Student Union to give families an opportunity to share thoughts and questions regarding the attacks.
Greg Stump, whose daughter, Christy Duncan, is a freshman, traveled from Winston-Salem to attend Family Weekend events on the UNC campus. "When the game was canceled, we asked our daughter if she just wanted us to pick her up, but she wanted us to come spend time here as a family," he said. "The atmosphere still seems a little somber, but it's been a great day, and we're glad we came."
But travel complications prevented some families from joining students at UNC. Air traffic has been severely restricted nationwide since the attacks. Raleigh-Durham International Airport opened on a limited basis Thursday.
Liz Kistin, a sophomore political science and Latin American studies major from New Mexico, said families of friends "adopted" her when her own family was unable to attend.
"My parents were supposed to fly out on Thursday, but the airport was so backed up that they would have had to wait too long to leave," she said. "I've talked to them a lot more over the past few days, and I really wanted to see them."
Virginia Hanson, a freshman exercise and sports science major from Alabama, said her family planned to fly but ended up driving to UNC this weekend. "I'm really happy my family was able to come, and I know they enjoyed meeting my friends and other parents," she said. "I'm glad we still had it -- the game was canceled, but I think that ended up giving everyone more time together, which is what needed to happen."
Some students said the heightened emotions of the past week made this year's Family Weekend especially significant.
"A lot of people lost members of their families this week, and having this was an opportunity for students and families to appreciate their time together," said Tyre Williams, a senior computer science major from Chadbourn. "The past week has been hard, and everyone is scared, but we can't let anyone stop us from living."
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