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Academics
November 7, 2011

Reflections at the World Trade Center and Franciscan Responses to 9/11 St. Francis Professors Commemorate and Reflect on Tragedy

As the attacks of 9/11 move further into the past, St. Francis Professors Francis Greene & Brother Edward Wesley, spoke about how memorials and a Franciscan approach to the events help people commemorate and reflect on the tragedy at a talk on November 7 in the St. Francis Maroney Forum for Arts, Culture and Entertainment. (Watch the entire lecture)

“Through memory there come alive and present to us, people who are forever gone and events which are long since over,” said Dr. Greene in stressing the importance of an appropriate memorial to commemorate 9/11.

During his talk he dissected and reviewed the physical and emotional impact of the new skyscraper, One World Trade Center, the reflecting pools and the soon to be opened museum. Dr. Greene spoke about how the original, inspired design of Architect Daniel Libeskind was reworked by David Childs to meet with safety and security standards set by a number of city, state and national agencies. While Professor Greene laments the many changes, he does offer that the current design for One World Trade Center is competent, under-stated and avoids gimmicks, and upon completion will be well-received.

In comparing the 9/11 memorial to the Oklahoma City bombing memorial, Professor Greene pointed out that the Lower Manhattan memorial is a more personal and modest design, where each visitor brings his or her own unique experiences to the memorial site. In Oklahoma City, the events of that day are represented front and center, almost forcing visitors to relive the bombing.

Brother Edward used a series of texts from different eras and religions and applied them to his personal response to the tragedy of 9/11 at four specific points over the past ten years. He began with a look at one of St. Francis of Assisi’s more popular writings, the Canticle of the Creatures, which was written in Italian instead of Latin to maximize the amount of people who would be able to read it. “It involves us all in the intricacies of creation and the intricacies of our living together harmoniously,” said Bro. Edward. (Read all accompanying texts)

In the second event, Bro. Edward reads from the Wreck of the Deutschland by Gerard Manley Hopkins, which looks at “the reflections of a Franciscan nun and her relationship to God, to creation and to death as she is drowning in a tragic moment similar to 9/11.”

Later in 2005 at an interfaith retreat, Bro. Edward compared how St. Francis of Assisi modeled the prayer, The Praises of God after the Muslim prayer, Names of Allah, The 99 Beautiful. This prayer is a direct result of St. Francis’ visit with Malik-al-Kamil, the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. Then in the final event, he commented on the rules laid down by St. Francis concerning non-appropriation and poverty, contrasting the austerity of St. Francis to the financial center in Lower Manhattan.

Both professors contributed to the epilogue of Perspectives on 9/11 (Praeger, 2004), a collection edited by Fine Arts Professor Yassin El-Ayouty which contained 16 original contributions written by scholars from around the world. It was dedicated to the heroes of 9/11; Police, Fire and Rescue Personnel as well as to St. Francis College.

This was the third in a series of events marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks . In September Dr. El-Ayouty spoke about the connection between 9/11 and Arab Spring and Philosophy Professor Gerald Galgan focused on amoral moralism. FDNY Commissioner Thomas Von Essen spoke November 3, sharing his thoughts and reflections on the response from the Fire Department and other city agencies.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.

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