?Sometimes it takes a tragedy to become stronger as a whole, ? was one of the hundreds of blue and red messages signed on a white banner emblazoned with large black lettering that read ? ?USF Cares.?
The banner was one emotional outlet for the approximately 350 students who gathered in the Special Events Center on Wednesday for a vigil remembering fallen Americans.
The day after the worst act of terrorism on United States soil, it was hard to escape the raw emotion throughout the campus.
?Everyone is in zombie-like mode,? sophomore Christina Rios said.
And after a long day of inquiry with few or no answers, the evening was a time for reflection.
?There is a season for grieving before we start asking questions,? Greg Hyden, director for student lobby and advancement said.
As students, faculty and staff filed quietly into the auditorium, they emptied their pockets to fill a neon-green bucket with donations for the Red Cross.
Once inside, students stood hand-in-hand as they waited for the silence to be broken.
?We come to pray for freedom and peace,? said student vice body president David Mincberg before he led the room in the pledge of allegiance.
In the solemn ceremony, the leadership of the university sat stiffly on the stage, each waiting their turn to offer comforting words.
President Judy Genshaft was the first to be introduced.
?We grieve for our wounded trust and hope for a world in which good faith and rationality prevail over hate and disorder,? Genshaft said.
With rumors beginning at a local radio station of disruptions at the university, Genshaft said the priority was for the safety of the community.
?We at this university will safeguard the physical security of all our students, faculty and staff on our campuses,? she said.
Genshaft said the rumors that students on campus were celebrating the terrorists? attacks were ?hurtful and malicious lies.?
?USF is united that knowledge is the path to truth,? she said.
Genshaft also said she was proud of the university for the outpouring of support and willingness to volunteer their services, such as donating blood.
?It would have taken 11 hours to give blood in a line that long,? Genshaft said.
Just as when Genshaft spoke, the room was still as each person on the stage rose to deliver consolation to the crowd.
It was the first speech Dick Beard had made to the university as a USF Trustee. He compared the time to the days in November 1963, when he was a junior in college.
?I would like to say you will get over this, but it will take a lot of time,? Beard said. ?Your life will never be the same again.?
Provost S. David Stamps said the university has come to share a common bond.
?We all feel a sense of loss,? Stamps said. ?But we will not take the easy road of unrestricted anger.?
While there was no anger expressed from the crowd, there were signs of grief.
Student body president Mike Griffin wiped away tears while senior Rajuan Kimble sang ?It?s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.?
The crowd then slowly and silently moved to the street between the SEC and the Phyllis P. Marshall Center. Students began to light candles and with cupped hands guarded the flames against the wind.
The discussions about the emotions of the day were soon replaced by voices singing the National Anthem.
Bharana Patel said the evening was not just to show unity of the university, but for the entire nation.
?We must show the world we can go on,? Patel said.