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Storm Shelter
By Mike Van Denend '78

<< Spark Online

The evening of my birthday, September 10, I was in a restaurant with some friends as a folk singer did a cover of The Beatles song, "Across the Universe." The singer encouraged us to join in on the chorus, which repeats the words, "Nothing's going to change my world."

Less than a dozen hours later our world was changed as terrorist-piloted planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

We'll never see things exactly the same way again.

After I heard the shocking news from New York and Washington, my first reaction was prayer. And then I e-mailed Alumni Association leaders who I knew could be near the trouble spots—Chaplain (and Colonel) Herman Keizer '65, one of last year's Distinguished Alumni Award winners and a regular attendee of Pentagon meetings and four Manhattan-employed alums: Dirk Pruis '82, a former Association president who works for Goldman Sachs; David Dykhouse '71, a current Alumni Board member and NYC attorney; Peter Dykstra '74, a former Board member and NYC data systems administrator; and Brad Miller '86, a chapter leader and J.P. Morgan executive.

I quickly heard back from Dirk, David and Peter and a bit later from Brad and Herm. All was well with them physically, but emotionally and spiritually they were being deeply affected. Dirk and Brad could see the horror of the collapsing buildings in front of their eyes (read Dirk's compelling account). David and Peter immediately began an email back-and-forth about where to donate blood and which hospitals were still accepting donors. Herm, who was at the State Department at the time of the attack, rushed back to the Pentagon and was instantly pulled into difficult duty (see Herm's report).

As the hours and days and weeks continued, more stories from alumni and friends came to light. Another interesting thing happened: alumni called our office to ask about former college roommates and others they knew during Calvin days. Did we know if so-and-so was okay? Could we help them reach a friend? Is there something we can do? The Alumni Office became a center of contact and a rallying place for prayer and support—a "storm shelter," if you will.

We felt compelled to set up a website to collect the amazing stories and requests for prayer that came into the college. You can still visit that site at; some of the entries there are recast in the feature inside this edition of Spark, but there are additional submissions, too.
At that site, you'll also see that gifted alumni writers such as Tony Norman '87 of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put their insight to work leading us to think thoughtfully, carefully and prayerfully about these world-changing events.

From the distance of Grand Rapids (or anywhere you happen to live), it is hard to feel as though one can make any difference, especially as the images of Ground Zero testify to such enormous devastation. But we know that, although our world has been changed, it still belongs to God. And as Calvin alumni, we are still called to participate in the renewal of all things. This we will do, whether it entails providing comfort to the storm-tossed, designing structures to withstand the storm, writing and teaching about the storm or working hard to prevent the next storm.

May what we think and say and do be part of God's storm shelter, a help and a hope and a harbor.

9-11-01 Dispatches
Alumni stories and faculty reflections told in Spark

Responding to Tragedy
A place to share stories and prayer requests

Letters to the editor
Respond to this article by emailing

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