More than a dozen students representing a variety of organizations met at 4 p.m. at the Campus Y and discussed ways to provide support for those who are grieving after hijacked planes leveled the World Trade Center, crashed into the Pentagon and went down in Pennsylvania.
"The entire campus took a blow today," said Student Body President Justin Young. "We are a community, and we are a community grieving together."
Members of student government and the Campus Y have organized an interfaith vigil at 8 p.m. today in the Pit. The event will include prayers from campus religious organizations, an open microphone for individual students to voice their concerns and singing of the national anthem and UNC's alma mater.
Student leaders said their main focus in the wake of the tragic event is to make sure that all students on campus have access to a strong network of support.
"Our most pressing concern is getting to the students who are grieving, in shock and need our help," said Student Body Vice President Rudy Kleysteuber. "We pray that number is not too large."
Members of Masala, an umbrella organization for cultural groups on campus, said they are worried minority groups and foreign exchange students might be unfairly targeted in the wake of the terrorism. "When people have been hurt, it's almost human nature to blame someone," said Masala Co-president Neera Makwana. "We want to make sure everyone releases their frustrations safely."
Makwana said she hopes a Masala forum of students, faculty and administrators, which the group plans to hold next Tuesday, will help address such frustrations.
Raj Panjabi, co-president of the Campus Y, also said ensuring no religious or ethnic group on campus is singled out is a primary concern. "This is a special time for us to recognize the Islamic groups on campus and let them know they are part of our community," he said, referring to the fact that intelligence officials speculated Tuesday that Osama bin Laden, an Arab who has been linked to past terrorist attacks, might have been responsible for the attack.
Student leaders said the upcoming events sponsored by student organizations will not deal with political issues but will aim to help students deal with the tragedy. "The issues that this brings up are so numerous and so complex, there's no way we can know how to respond," Young said. "Right now is a time for us to grieve and think of our loss."
Leaders spent time before and after the meeting organizing fund-raisers and blood drives targeted at the student body.
A fund-raiser conducted by MASALA and Campus Y will be held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m today in the Pit. Residence Hall Association President David Cooper said the RHA will hold a fund-raiser Saturday on Franklin Street to benefit the Red Cross.
Panjabi said the attacks offer an opportunity for members of the University community to make a national statement, and he called upon UNC's young people to take advantage of that opportunity.
"This is a time for our generation to show our predecessors and our younger siblings that this event won't split us apart," he said. "We have to put away these racial differences and religious differences and come together as a community."
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