Marcellette G. Williams was Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2001-2002.
This is an archive of the Chancellor's Web site during her tenure.

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Marcellette G. Williams, Chancellor

UMass Community Remembrance Remarks
September 14, 2001
Campus Pond - University of Massachusetts Amherst

On this day of remembrance we come together once again, with souls still buried beneath girders of grief, and healing still blocked by the debris of anxiety and desolation. Even now the howls of anguish and rage are ringing in our ears. How can we abide this grief…these multiple and conflicting emotions?

Last night I found in the words of writer Nessa Rapoport the essence of much of what I have been feeling. Permit me to share these brief, but poignant lines with you today. The first is called Undo It, Take It Back

Undo it, take it back, make every day the previous one until I am returned to the day before the one that made you gone. Or set me on an airplane traveling west, crossing the date line again and again, losing this day, then that, until the day of loss still lies ahead, and you are here instead of sorrow.

Another is called From the Darkest Place

From the darkest place, base of the shattered stairs, the stony voice says: Never, and: No, and: Unforgiven, but I, volleying against despair, still cry out in the habit of hopefulness. Find me, lift me up, bathe me in forgotten grace.

And the last is called Light

All living things lean into light; the luster of summer, winter’s clarity. Even under a mocking heaven we raise mute faces for that celestial kiss.

I ask us here… today—in the habits of hopefulness and as we lean into light—I ask us to let our spirits remember all those things—now lost or changed forever--things we thought of as treasures or "gifts"—our family members, their families, a sense of order and security and predictability—all those gifts given and now gone. Then, let us remember why we thought of all these things as gifts…and use our silent answers to regenerate our spirits and replace our depression with the vitality we need to sustain life.

And though the days ahead will continue to bring grim news of UMass family members and beyond, may our remembrances become shields for those unbearable moments of sorrow. Still burning deep with each of us are the fires of hopefulness and renewal and reconciliation.






Marcellette G. Williams

University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003

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