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In the Face of Uncertainty

Until 2076: Ed Shapland '85 and Maryanne Courtney '85, with their baby, Emily, and President William R. Brody They are so young, yet left to cope with very adult feelings of grief and anger, disbelief and abandonment: Liam Vauk, age 3; Payton and Avery Wall, 4 and 3; Nicole Sammartino, 4; Rocky Friedman, 1; and Ingrid and Frederick Nelson, 8 and 4.

Their dads, all members of the Johns Hopkins community, were among the thousands of people killed on the sunny Tuesday morning that changed everything. We pay tribute in this issue to the Hopkins people who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks, with a series of profiles intended to celebrate their lives. I hope you'll spend time reading about every one of these bright lights. As a university community, we grieve deeply for all those who were lost.

What will the future hold in store for today's little ones, both those directly affected by the attacks--like Liam and Payton and Avery and Nicole and Rocky and Ingrid and Frederick--and the millions of other children who have mercifully thus far been spared from immediate loss?

There has, perhaps, never been a more challenging time to ponder the future. Yet that's exactly what members of the Hopkins community set out to do last month. In the final event to mark the university's 125th anniversary, administrators put together a time capsule, to be opened 75 years hence at the university's bicentennial, which coincidentally will mark the nation's tricentennial.

Students, faculty, staff, and alumni were invited to pour out their thoughts, prayers, and reflections to be sealed in the capsule, which was installed in the foyer of Homewood's Gilman Hall on October 12. In attendance at the ceremony celebrating the event were Ed Shapland '85 and Maryanne Courtney '85 with their new baby, Emily, whom event organizers hope will be on hand when the capsule is reopened in 2076.

In the days before the time capsule was buried, I had an opportunity to read through the submissions, some 200 in all. It was a moving experience. A few contributors--mostly students--leavened their notes with humor. "By the time you read this, I will be 97 years old (I'm 22 today). If someone hasn't invented flying skateboards by then I'll be very let down," penned one undergrad. A computer science major, Class of 2003, queried: "Have we made it to Mars yet? How about a Moon colony? No? Well, get to it!"

But for most of those who submitted messages, the horror of September 11, and the United States' response, were front and center. Many wrote of the nation's pain, and of their own personal turmoil and uncertainty as to what the coming weeks and months--much less decades--will bring. But nearly all tried to muster a sense of optimism, echoing the sentiments of one APL space scientist who wrote: "I hope that by 2076 ... the terrorism that currently fills our lives with fear, sadness, and anger has been relegated to the same ashcan as Nazism and fascism."

In the end, that is probably the most we all can hope--for ourselves and for all the nation's children.

-Sue De Pasquale

Return to November 2001 Table of Contents

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