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The Daily Tar Heel

6,000 Gather to Reflect on 9/11

Bell tolls to honor UNC's fallen alumni.

As the echoes of the bell faded away Wednesday, the only sound was the fluttering of the U.S. flag flying at half-staff as about 6,000 people stood in a tribute to the six UNC alumni who died Sept. 11, 2001.

Doug Dibbert, director of alumni affairs, read a short biography of each of the alumni who perished in the attacks that included quotes and memories from family members and friends.

"As we all recall and mourn how they died, we should also remember and celebrate how each lived," he said.

After reading each of the biographies, Dibbert quoted the James Taylor song, "Carolina in My Mind": "Say nice things about me/Carry on without me/I'm gone. Yes, I'm gone."

Then the crowd linked hands and bowed heads in a moment of silence as the bell tolled once for each of the fallen alumni.

Campus leaders also addressed the somber crowd, urging them to continue their efforts to connect with each other and the community through outreach programs and service organizations.

Sue Estroff, chairwoman of the Faculty Council, read from Mordechai Kaplan's "How to Number Our Days."

"We are perplexed by doubts concerning the worth of what was and harassed by anxieties concerning what will be," she read. "We seek to conquer fear and to gather in gladness and in serenity."

Campus Rabbi Sharon Mars said the University community has united with courage to face "the horrifying events that violated our innocence and stole our sense of security."

She said community members now face the challenge of transforming the fear and pain they feel into hope. "On this day of remembrance, much more is required of each of us," Mars said. "On this day, we are obligated to rise up, out of our year of mourning -- rise up and shake the ash from our sackcloth."

Student Body President Jen Daum said the campus became a family after Sept. 11, 2001, when students, transfixed by shock and grief, realized that the events of the outside world had touched the campus.

Students channeled their grief and fear into projects that served others. "Out of our grief came action," she said. "We were called to serve, and we answered that call."

Daum encouraged students to continue their tradition of serving others while honoring the memories of the alumni who were lost in the attacks.

"Today is both a day to remember and a day to celebrate life as Carolina honors its past and unites for the future," she said. "And it is with great hope that we will thrive as the leaders of a nation reborn."

Many people grew tearful as Senior Class President Paymon Rouhanifard told the story of his family's flight from Iran 14 years ago after family members and friends were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and executed because they were a part of a religious minority.

Nearly two years after fleeing Iran, his family arrived in the United States -- the refuge of religious freedom and democracy -- on Thanksgiving Day, he said.

"My mother, father, younger brother and I arrived thinking we would never again be part of a society that would have to face such terror and destruction due to hatred like that which we encountered in our homeland."

But Rouhanifard's family did again see such terror and destruction in the attacks Sept. 11, which he called the "utmost violent and barbaric act we, as Americans, have ever seen."

He urged students to look toward the future, drawing support from campus unity. "I have known tyranny. We have all known terror. But as a University family, we can embrace optimism, take pride in the strength of our identity and move forward with a renewed sense of hope."

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