Yesterday evening at 9 o’clock, while wintery winds brought a chill to the campus, students, staff and faculty gathered at the Museum of Art steps to reflect on the Boston Marathon bombing.
Madison Whitley ’13 was the first to speak, and acknowledged the close tie between Boston and Bowdoin. “Boston has a special place in Bowdoin’s heart,” she said. “Chances are you know someone who was cheering at or running in the marathon.” She then quoted Mister Rogers, who said to “look for the helpers” in times of disaster. Whitley said that on days like these, she appreciates the Bowdoin community, and all its helpers, the most.
Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Robert Ives then offered a few remarks, recounting a story he heard from a Scottish shepherd friend. When lambs are born in the spring, they need water as well as their mother’s milk. But this time of year, the streams are often full and fast, scaring the lambs away. To lure them to drink, the shepherd builds a stone wall in a stream to catch the water and create a still pool.
“We’re going into the turbulent waters of life, but we are called to be like those stones,” Ives said. “We’re called to be stones of encouragement and loving support, to encourage each other through these turbulent times of life.”
Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Brian Purnell also spoke, explaining that he had been invited to the event after people had read and were moved by his blog post, “Open letter to my students about Boston marathon bombing.”
Purnell said the attacks in Boston were an attack on the world, as runners from 96 countries had competed and 20,000 people had been watching from the sidelines. “It’s a terrible threat to safety and communal celebration,” he commented.
But Purnell reminded students that “the work we do here every day is an antidote to the violence in Boston, because critical thinking and questioning is a type of antidote to violence.”
At Bowdoin, as at many colleges and universities, there is free expression of ideas. “We seek analysis that is honest and has integrity … We fight for pluralism, thought and experience, and that is how we work for a common good called justice.”
The Longfellows then sang a quiet song, asking that the crowd approach them and stand closer together to ward off the cold of the night.
Ives concluded the ceremony with a Celtic blessing: “As we go forth this evening, may the peace of running waves…blowing winds…shining stars…quiet earth be with you…,” he said.
Photos by Michele Stapleton