To students at Boston University, services and vigils at the school's Marsh Chapel have been as natural a place as any to be this past week.
Senior Susan Harrington says a lot of students who don't consider themselves religious have attended the events "almost instinctively." Ms. Harrington went herself on Friday night with fellow athletes. "There's been a real sense of solidarity about all this," she says.
The interdenominational Protestant worship led by the Rev. Hope Luckie last Sunday was just one of numerous commemorations -for students and community members of all faiths - that have been held in and outside the chapel since Tuesday. Many have signed a wall of remembrance there for the victims of last week's attacks; the statue out front is littered with candles.
But a number of students also talk about having to make sense of last week's events more or less alone. Adam Ratner, a first-year graduate student in international relations who focuses on US foreign policy, says his professors didn't really addressed the week's events in class. "They just kind of glossed over it," he says. "My guess is they were afraid to jump to any conclusions."
Mr. Ratner says there was panic on campus last Tuesday as students flocked to phones trying to call family and friends. By the weekend, though, campus routines had resumed. "At the same time," he says, "there's a presence. You know things in the rest of the world aren't the same."
The university is not the same either. "We cry out of our depths in the words that Paul used: 'What then are we to say about these things?' " Rev. Luckie said in her sermon.
Not only are many students coping with personal losses and fears, Luckie said, but "our Islamic students are afraid. They are in hiding."
"I have news," she preached to a damp-eyed congregation, "The Islamic community is not our enemy. They should not be persecuted because we are afraid."
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This year's "First Look Fair" at the University of Maryland College Park campus had balloons and stalls like last year. But not everything was business as usual. Ten thousand flowers lined the edges of a central pool and fountain. A curtain of white sheets, covered with the prayers and statements of grieving students and staff, cut across the mall. Members of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), the Pakistani Student Association, and others spent time assuring non-Muslims that Islam does not condone terrorism.
On this campus of more than 33,000, faculty and students are trying to come to grips with what the events of last Tuesday mean for the future. "Whatever happened to us on Tuesday was life-transforming, and the students, like the adults, know something has changed," says Andrea Hill Levy, associate vice president.
A vigil on Wednesday night provided an opportunity to grieve together, and the next day three teach-ins tackled such issues as how a democracy reacts when terrorists use its freedoms to attack it. Muslim students shared statements by US Islamic leaders, condemning the attacks.
The university has counselors widely available and has assigned liaisons to every student residence. It is also preparing to help students who have lost loved ones travel to their families - providing them, if need be, with a travel companion.
To ensure the safety of its approximately 2,000 Muslim students, the school is providing police protection at their Friday prayer meetings, beefing up security, and issuing lists of emergency numbers.
Next Thursday, the Jewish Student Union, the MSA, and others will hold an event at which students affected by the attack will share experiences. The MSA is also continuing to participate in the Inter-Chaplaincy Student Leadership Council, and to reach out to other groups, like the Hindu Student Council. "Now," says HSC member Shruti Sagar, "we want to be one. Change can start with one person."
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At Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., course registration took place as scheduled last Tuesday. On Wednesday, classes started up. Senior Jamie Hall says that, even so, the TV in his dorm was on all day Tuesday and Wednesday, and the common room packed with watchers. Since then he's been watching the coverage in his own room.
The recent news of terrorist activity in neighboring Boston has caused some Harvard students to worry that the school, Cambridge's most famous landmark, could be a target of future attacks. A bomb scare last week in the health-services building left many students anxious.
Still, the start of school makes its demands. "It's weird," Mr. Hall says. "I just had to do all my normal beginning-of-the-year stuff while all this was going on. Not that I could do anything to stop it, but it felt strange."