"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted," Moeser said, standing erect behind a podium positioned on the South Building steps.
The booming biblical passage initiated a scheduled time of reflection for which Moeser suspended classes from noon to 2 p.m.
Moeser instructed the crowd to stand and gather hands in a moment of contemplation, transforming the quad into a human chain with only the hushed clicking of camera shutters disrupting the somber gesture.
"Our country and our individual lives will be indelibly changed by the events of the last 27 hours," he said, referring to Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., "America has lost its innocence."
The objective of Wednesday's gathering, Moeser said, was to engage in reflective meditation. "We are here this noon ... to offer our support and consolation for those in grief and distress and gather strength from one another."
A burst of clapping erupted from the attentive crowd when Moeser said he hoped the University community would look to ethnic groups with understanding. "We must not respond to hate with more hate; to intolerance with more intolerance."
This sentiment was echoed by the event's other speakers, which included Student Body President Justin Young, Campus Y Co-President Raj Panjabi, Curriculum in Peace, War & Defense Chairman Richard Kohn, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Sue Kitchen and the Rev. Steve Stanley of Chapel of the Cross.
When Kohn took his place behind the podium, he shared a sobering perspective about the nation's fragility.
"While we are shocked and deeply saddened by yesterday's events, we should not be surprised," he said
"We have known for years that our institutions ... are vulnerable."
And he warned the crowd to not let a knee-jerk reaction to the attacks dominate their emotions. "A great nation does not lash out in anger or revenge," he said. "In our sorrow, we should heed voices of reason and restraint ... and not scapegoat people who are not causes of our pain."
Stanley also stressed the need for acceptance by instructing audience members to look around and realize that brothers and sisters surround them. "Today we are all family," Stanley said. "This is not a time to separate our hearts into ... racial and political labels. We need one label alone -- that of our humanity -- today."
The Loreleis, an all-female a cappella group, concluded the ceremony with a solemn selection called "Wanting Memories." The song caused a number of crowd members to bow their heads as silent tears streamed down.
"I'm not fearing for my own life, but the loss is just so great," said senior Erin Peck, as her eyes again welled up.
"It's encouraging that there is unity and caring coming out of this."
The University Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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