Annual 9/11 Assembly: A Powerful Reminder of the Fragility of Life

It has now been over a month since The Upper School held its annual September 11th assembly to honor the tragic attack on America that occurred 21 years ago. The assembly, held on Mon., Sept. 12, opened with  Head of the Upper School Mr.Carr acknowledging the incredible and courageous first responders and all that they have done for New York citizens and Americans over the past two decades. 

“Today, I want to narrow the focus to the personal costs of losing a friend and the ephemerality or fleeting nature of life,” Carr continued, transitioning to speak of two former Benjamin School students, Lindsey Moorehouse from the class of 1996 and Patrick Serrano from the class of 1993. Both worked in finance, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, on the day of the attack. Carr expressed that both were like many students at the school today, “very bright, friendly, motivated and excited to see where their lives would go.” He communicated that he would be sharing these stories to simply, “highlight the fact that the 911 tragedy impacted so many aspects of national and global life, from enormous geopolitical structures to the smaller yet just as important threads of family and friend networks.” 

Moorehouse was the main focus of the assembly, highlighting that she was an excellent student and an all-star athlete who was an incredible addition to the Upper School for the short time she was here. She then went on to attend Williams College in Massachusetts, where she majored in economics and led the tennis team to the NCAA Division III finals in her junior year, while also earning all-American honors. Lindsay was bright and talented, with much more life ahead of her. 

A clip was then shown of Moorehouse’s tennis teammate and college classmate, Lisa Nathan Ridd, who spoke on her experience of losing her close friend and escaping the North Tower on that fateful day. The clip came from a recent a documentary entitled The Memory Box: Echoes of 911, which was 20 years in the making. In 2002, less than a year after the September 11th attacks, an artist and filmmaker named Ruth Sergel built a small booth where survivors of the tragic event could come and express their feelings around it and share their stories.

“The power of the space, allowed people to tell their stories in an anonymous yet shared way” explained Carr. Ridd posted a small notice inviting anyone to come to the booth and share their stories and over the course of the first week, 750 individuals showed up. Over the years, that number grew, and in 2021, everyone who originally recorded was invited back 20 years after 9/11 to update their stories.

Nathan Ridd was one of them. She expresses the love, sadness, survivor’s guilt, but most importantly, the ongoing importance of Lindsey in her life. She leaves viewers with the message that, “It’s okay to grieve because you can also live your life and you can love your life and you can be happy too”.

After the message from Nathan Ridd, Upper School Music Director, Ms. Kirkland Schuler, presented “I’ll Be Here,” a song written from the perspective of a woman whose life was forever changed the day of the attack and had to learn to live with that loss for years to come. Before she began the song, Schuler said that, “it’s easy to think about how this affected our country and the world at large and it’s very easy to forget about how this affected individual people with individual lives…I invite all of you with this song to remember to be here for each other while we still have the time”. 

The assembly then closed with the Upper School’s Chorus offering a haunting rendition of “Amazing Grace.” This was the chorus’ first performance of the year, which was heartfelt and very emotional. 

Overall, the assembly was a somber, yet beautiful experience that left students reminded to cherish life and the experiences within it.