Today felt as though I was constantly zooming in and out on reality- like a telescope, allowing us to see one item in detail, then pulling back to look at a bigger picture. One moment, I was in “go” mode- printing flyers, setting up chairs, directing people. Changing the order of our 9/11 Vigil at the last moment so the President of Northeastern University could offer remarks. Running to the bookstore for the eighth time to buy another cord to connect my computer to the Sacred Space’s AV port. Walking so, so fast to the library because I couldn’t get our printers to work.
These moments felt like I was severely zoomed in- I was concentrated on my task at hand, checking my time to make sure everything was on schedule. I was mindful of my actions, but perhaps less of my emotions. And then I was nervous- I enjoy public speaking, and also feel very nervous.
“Zoomed in” was how I experienced most of this day. But in the short moments that my telescope collapsed, the moments in which I remembered why I was completing all these tasks, I fought the urge to cry.
Today at Northeastern, we celebrated many lives, and we mourned the members of our family that we lost. We hit the singing bowl 12 times- once for every student that died in the attacks of September 11, 2001. We listened to Billy Collins’ “The Names”, a poem dedicated to victims of the attacks. A Muslim student read the poem. I thought about how powerful it was that this student read this poem so beautifully, and how difficult it could have been, given his identity as Pakistani-American. President Aoun spoke about the Northeastern family, and we reflected on how strong our community is, especially in times of crisis. Two flower pots lined the center table, unassuming, hopeful and calm, and fragrant. Another student worker picked them out with me yesterday. Students and staff introduced themselves to one another. I met a few new colleagues. I helped the Muslim students arrange the room for Juma’a prayer after the service, and answered some emails, and said hello for the last time to our Muslim Spiritual Advisor, as he ends his time at NU for a new job.
10 students made quilts and cards for a women’s shelter in Boston. They listened to music and sat in a circle. I arranged the chairs again, this time for the memorial service for Javier, a NU student who died over the summer. I printed 50 programs, went back to the bookstore, and taught myself how to setup the AV. As I walked back from the library, I gazed at the picture of Javi on the program, and wondered who he was. After the service, I watched 50 of his friends sign the journal for his family, and thought how much one person, one life, is worth.
I didn’t know you, Javi. From the amount of people gathered today in your memory, you were well liked- no, you were well loved. You seemed like a student I would have liked to meet, and get to know. I would have loved you- just as I love all my students. Maybe you would have worked for our office, maybe not. Maybe you never wanted to think about faith, or big questions. Maybe you did. Maybe you would have come in just to ask where the restroom is, or to find your way to Curry Student Center. Maybe you would recognize someone, a friend or classmate, and stay a little longer than you planned. Hopefully, you would have felt welcome. You might even have come to an event in the Sacred Space- and you would have laughed with me and Alex and the student workers. You might have come in to talk more at length, and you would yawn from doing too much homework too late at night (or talking to friends, or eating delicious latin food, as they said you enjoyed). Maybe you would have shared some beautiful and heartbreaking things about your family, or moving, or what was bugging you about life at NU. Maybe you would ask for some advice, and we could talk through a problem, and maybe you would follow it, maybe not. Maybe, you would have graduated without ever setting foot in CSDS. And that would be totally fine. Probably, you would go on to save lives as a doctor or bioengineer, and you would love almost every second of it. I didn’t know you, Javi, but I feel like I met you just a little today. And for that, I am grateful and unworthy.
Today I felt like a member of the Northeastern family. And like my own family, I knew I would do anything for each member, to challenge them, support them, and love them as much as possible.