Nearly 20,000 people gathered at Library Mall Friday afternoon to remember the victims of last week’s tragedy in New York and Washington.
In a brief presentation commemorating a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, members of the Dane Country Board of Supervisors, UW-Madison faculty and students and local musicians called on the community to work together to overcome last Tuesday’s tragedy.
“The events of Tuesday, Sept. 11, were an American tragedy such as this country has never seen. But above all they were a crime against humanity,” said UW Interim Provost Gary Sandefur.
Sandefur, filling in for Chancellor John Wiley, who was forced to drive back to Madison from California when airports were closed, said it is important the university community work together in spite of the terrorism.
“Remember that we are a community united by loss, by our strength, by our condemnation of violence and by our hope to see a better day,” Sandefur said.
Jessica Miller, chair of the Associated Students of Madison, also asked the community to look out for each other in coming days.
“There are students, faculty and staff in our community who have suffered terrible loss,” Miller said. “As horrified and saddened as I am ? I have seen what we can do when we come together.”
Miller also said resorting to violence or war against possible suspects is not the answer.
“We must be proactive in our fear,” Miller said. “I implore each and every one of you not to give in to retribution ? of hate.”
The primary speaker, UW sociologist Joe Elder, also pleaded with the nation to keep peace in spite of the fears and anger of its people.
“Perhaps, despite the pain of this tragedy, we can abide by our national principles that individuals are innocent until they are proved guilty — that those who are guilty are to be punished,” Elder said. “And not their relatives, not those who speak the same language, not those who share the same religious affiliation or live within the same national boundaries.”
Elder, who was a member of the UW Faculty Against the War during the Vietnam era, said it is important to refrain from blaming others when coping with the tragedy.
“We can understand the desire to blame or punish,” he said. “We must protect the innocent from being blamed or punished.”
Elder’s speech was briefly interrupted by a trio of sisters from Eugene, Oregon, claiming they were from the “Kingdom of God,” who used the public gathering to spread their own distinct message.
Bearing signs saying “Jesus soon to judge” and “All that matters — you are headed for hell,” Sarah J. Woroniecki, 20, Ruth M. Woronieki, 19, and their unnamed 16-year-old sister were escorted from Library Mall by UW police officers for disorderly conduct.
In a press release, police officers said the incident might have escalated into physical confrontation if police had not stepped in.