The somber tolling of the Cochran Chapel bells rang throughout campus at 8:46 a.m. last Sunday, September 11, commemorating the time the first plane struck the World Trade Center. As Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, members of the Andover community paused to reflect on the tremendous tragedy of that day.
Reverend Anne Gardner, Director of Spiritual and Religious Life, organized tributes around campus in order to observe this anniversary, including the tolling of the bells, the black ribbons provided in Paresky Commons, and flags which flew at half-mast on campus. In addition, names of victims previously submitted by students, faculty, and staff, including the names of two alumni, Todd Isaac ’90 and Stacy Sanders ’94, were displayed in Paresky.
“I think from a pastoral perspective, there are many people on this campus who are far too young to remember September 11; they don’t have a direct personal experience of that day and [then] there are many, many people on the other end of the stick who not only remember that day quite well, but actually because of the location of the school and because Flight 11 left from Boston, have an immediate connection with people that lost their lives,” said Gardner in an interview with The Phillipian.
Serving as a symbol of mourning for those killed on 9/11, black ribbons were provided for community members as a visual reminder of the tragedy.
“I made [the ribbons] available on Sunday here in Paresky just again as a visual reminder that this day is meaningful, that it was a day of great grief and tragedy and that you’re holding that in your heart, even if it doesn’t directly affect you,” said Gardner.
During the time of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Gardner shared a conversation with then Associate Head of School Rebecca Sykes about whether the commemoration had run its course.
“After the tenth anniversary, we had one year where we didn’t have [any commemoration], just to sort of see how that would feel, and if there was enough angst in the community to want to resurrect something. We heard from a few people, but frankly, a few people was enough to convince me to start doing it again. [Head of School John] Palfrey absolutely supported it and wanted it and wants all of these secular moments to be commemorated in some way and has asked me to be able to craft those things,” said Gardner.
In addition to 9/11, Gardner organizes tributes for Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.
“For Memorial Day, for Veteran’s Day, for September 11, these are all moments in our collective history where we pause for whatever time and remember those events. So I’m happy to continue doing something, and each year, it’s taken on a slightly different tone based on when the holiday falls and how it matches up with the school’s calendar,” said Gardner.
Gardner is the first Director of Spiritual and Religious Life at Andover, as the position was initiated when she first arrived on campus in 2008.
“My job is to oversee the chapel at large and particularly to develop programming that speaks to the religious or spiritual lives of students across all different types of faith traditions, including people who are not religious or who have not grown up in a particular faith tradition. And to try to develop programming that speaks to what it means to have an interior life, what it means to think about questions of what kind of person you are going to become, and how you make the choices in your life,” said Gardner.
Gardner does not have any specific hopes for future generations in regard to 9/11, except that they will find a way to craft their own vision on what that day means to them.
“I’m actually curious to see, as the years go on, what the long lense of history will project for September 11. I know it has a particular piece in my lifespan, but I’ll be interested to see what happens with all of you,” said Gardner.