University community reflects on 9/11 — and the day’s significance
September 08, 2021
September 08, 2021
I was in my second year at Quinnipiac on September 11, 2001.
The morning of the attacks, I was on a phone call talking about research with one of my co-authors when my husband let me know to turn on the news.
My friend and I watched the footage of the plane in the first tower and were still on the phone when the plane hit the second tower. By this point, we weren’t talking about our research anymore.
I had already started to think about teaching the following day and what the students would need from me as we all processed what was going on.
As someone who was still a newbie, this was a challenge. I was used to thinking mostly about content and class activities that would enhance learning of the content for the day. Because I was teaching about leadership that semester, I was already planning to teach about how important it is for leaders to take into account characteristics of the situation they are in and characteristics of followers as they choose how to behave and how to talk to their followers in organizations.
I realized I needed to apply that to my own situation and rather than focus on content on the day after 9/11, I needed to be a source of support and care for my students in the classroom.
I needed to help them work through what happened and start to understand why, to allow them to ask questions and give them a space to think and talk.
I also wanted to model for them how to handle their own questions when they are feeling curious as well as angry or scared. It’s fair to say that those days after 9/11, taking into account what the students needed— really what we all needed — in the wake of this national tragedy, shaped who I became as a professor.
This mindset, instilled back in 2001, has most certainly helped me to think about how to structure my classes and work with students during the pandemic which is now affecting a fourth semester. I hope that I have been a source of support, guidance, and learning no matter what we are dealing with outside of class.
— Carrie Bulger, professor of psychology
I sat on the couch in my apartment holding my 3-month-old son, who is now a senior at Quinnipiac, watching the news when I looked up at my husband and said, “We will raise our son in a future we can no longer imagine.”
I dropped my boy off at daycare and spent the day with distraught, angry, fearful and confused 14 to 18-year-olds. I was no less distraught, angry, fearful or confused.
I wanted to help my students heal in ways that were situated in kindness, perspective and challenged the concept of absolutes. And yet the welling up of extreme patriotism was comforting and made me feel like I belonged to something trying to heal and protect itself. However, the patriotism has evolved into hate and rhetoric of nationalism and white supremacy over the last 20 years and it has maimed my beliefs about what it means to be an American.
Ten years later, a 14-year-old freshman in my biology class shared her 9/11 experience and it lives with me maybe more deeply than the fear of my son’s unknown future and deep patriotism that rose up in the subsequent weeks and months following the attacks.
My student told me, with tears in her eyes, about immigrating from Afghanistan on September 10, 2001 and how she and her family were in a NYC hotel room when the manager visited.
They were told under no circumstances should they leave their room and that hotel would provide food and supplies. The manager, after seeing acts of violence towards people of color and individuals of Islamic faith, feared for the safety of her family. She recounted her experiences with the hatred and Islamophobia as she grew up. Her voice, her lived experience, her courage changed my life.
Education is a beautiful and powerful construct that is steeped in systemic inequity, and 9/11 amplified policies and power structures. Each state, school district, school, classroom etc. reflects the communities they are situated in, which means the perspective, the lessons, the policies, the focus is different for each.
We are humans and our lived experiences inform our teaching. So, yes, education was changed that day because every educator was impacted, but with each lived experience, the impact on the individual classroom is as unique as the human teaching.
— Cindy Kern, School of Education professor
There was a sense of shock when the events of 9/11 occurred.
I remember for a short time, we were more patient and compassionate with each other as Americans. Strangers held open doors, looked each other in eye, and helped wherever they could.
We understood that we were all Americans in this together and the things that had divided us the day before 9/11 seemed so trivial when measured against the existential threat we were facing.
But our country quickly closed in on itself and the openness that used to be the marvel of my Spanish relatives disappeared.
No longer could you enter government buildings or stroll through airports as freely as in the past.
People soon became suspicious of those speaking languages other than English.
In cafés across the nation, there were demands that our government retaliate against the perpetrators of 9/11 – and we did.
As the years have unfurled into our exit from Afghanistan today, the importance of a well-rounded college education truly crystallizes.
We ran headlong into Afghanistan with swords drawn but there was so much we didn’t understand – or take the time to understand.
We didn’t understand the history, the culture, the people, and all the different languages in this beautiful, mysterious land of many lands with the lapis lazuli skies.
I truly hope that Afghan girls will continue to go to school, that young Afghan boys aren’t brainwashed and sent off to war but are also in school, and that there are free elections in Afghanistan.
I hope in memory of our brave soldiers who lost their lives defending America that we take those classes that help us to understand how much we still need to learn so history doesn’t repeat itself… again.
— Aileen Dever, professor and chair of modern languages
I was a junior in college and as a Canadian living in the United States.
I was immediately very fearful and remember conversations with my family about potentially going home for fear of additional attacks.
The moments of that day are engrained in my mind remembering exactly where I was and the rush and panic of friends and peers who had parents working in the area.
The fear quickly turned to sadness and empathy for a teammate, Kathleen Kauth, who lost her father, Don Kauth. She had graduated the year before and it quickly made sense for her to be the volunteer assistant coach for our team so our Brown family could support her as she trained for her dream of playing in the Olympics…which she did in 2006.
— Cassie Turner, head women’s ice hockey coach
While it was a horrific day for our country and in particular the families directly affected. By the grace of God, it did not directly impact our family.
I can immediately close my eyes and go back to exactly that moment in time.
Remembering that morning taking my son, AJ, to his first day of 3-year-old preschool, and then all of the confusion and overwhelming tragedy of that day unfolding. We did come to learn of friends of friends who had lost loved ones.
— Tricia Fabbri, head women’s basketball coach
The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. revealed to me that even with an enormous military force bristling with technologically sophisticated weaponry and intelligence agencies deploying surveillance capabilities unlike any the world has ever experienced, a nation bracketed by two oceans could be laid low by less than two dozen terrorists armed with $2 box cutters and a few hours of flight training on a suicide mission.
After 9/11, whenever I read about new technological developments in the U.S., I figured that whatever it was, it could and would be used against the country by adversaries in ways that could not be predicted. Social media and the disinformation that cascades through feeds has confirmed that perspective that evolved from 9/11.
As a journalist, I saw the attacks change cable television news in ways both trivial — think of the crawl of news bits on the bottom of the screen that is now an ordinary element of the presentation — and profound in the way it allowed itself to be bullied by the administration to "watch what they say," as then press secretary Ari Fleischer warned at one point, setting up an us-against-them conflict between viewers and journalists that has escalated over the past two decades.
— Rich Hanley, associate professor of journalism
I was working as a manager and trainer at an all-women's gym on 9/11. I was at the front desk when I heard gasps and expressions of horror in the cardio room, where we had TVs on.
I ran in and stood frozen. Like the women on the equipment, we could not comprehend what we were seeing and we did not know how we were supposed to react.
Quickly, everyone jumped off their machines and we all felt the pull to head home to connect with and check in with our loved ones. The gym sent all employees home and we closed.
We were all just so stunned and did not know what we were supposed to do. They gym closed for a few days, while we tried to grapple with what had happened.
I feel fortunate to work in the fitness industry where we process things by moving.
In the gym, the physical became a distraction and, at the same time, a way to “move” through what had happened in a safe and supportive environment.
Being able to sweat and talk about our emotions, anxieties and grief at the same time, saved me as well as many of our members. Many of us were at a loss as to what we could and should be doing and did not realize how big a role being grounded in our own bodies would be as a strategy to get through this unthinkable time.
It has changed how I teach all my fitness classes and showed me how deep exercise reaches. It is truly the bridge between the mind and body connection, and it does not have to be a yoga class to work this magic. Movement is powerful medicine and a valuable way to anchor yourself into your body and in the moment which for many of us the tether we need during crisis.
I have a very good friend and colleague who was in NYC teaching at a big club at the time. Her clientele began to come back to the gym to do the same — and out of that experience came a new fitness program that was born from how they processed what was happening. It was called willpower and grace and the time, now it is CardioYoga; both are a movement-based bodyweight cardio class that helps you process what is happening to you in your heart and soul in the moment.
— Tami Reilly, director of fitness and well being
The attacks are what made me interested in journalism and world affairs.
I was a bit lost before that happened. But when it happened, I quickly went from anger at those who did it, to curiosity about why someone would attack us in the first place. That curiosity challenged an idea that had been burned in my head since birth – that America is the greatest country on Earth. The attacks could never be justified, but nobody engages in such a heinous activity for no reason.
Journalists seriously dropped the ball after the attacks. Blinded by their anger, they devoured the lies from the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein was connected to the attacks and that he had weapons of mass destruction.
As modern journalism continues to come under attack for no good reason, there are good reasons to criticize what we do. My hope is that, moving forward, we’re able to see past our own anger as Americans when covering foreign affairs, and focus on the truth as it evolves, no matter who it hurts. Otherwise we’re simply mouthpieces for a government and not humanity’s last line of defense against tyranny.
— David DesRoches, director of community programming in the School of Communications
Words cannot express how life changed for many after 9/11. I am grateful for the members of our community that have dedicated their lives to protect our freedom and serve our country.
My husband, Brian, is a retired United States Air Force officer, having served for over 20 years. Shortly after 9/11, he was deployed to Saudi Arabia to support operations in the Middle East.
My fear for the safety of our nation, and fear for the individuals protecting and serving our country heightened significantly.
Looking back, I believe our country became stronger and united in many ways. Although we should never forget this tragedy, we should continue to show gratitude to the individuals that choose to serve. While engaging with our student Veterans in the classroom, I am reminded of their commitment and dedication.
— Patricia S. Kelly, senior instructor of management
I was editor-in-chief of a financial news publisher in Charlottesville, Virginia on 9/11.
We lost subscribers and sources that day. I lost friends. I sent the staff home, and we did not publish that day or the next day.
It made me reassess my life.
In less than a year, I had entered academia as an assistant professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, which allowed me to spend more time with my two young sons. It put me on the trajectory of becoming a dean at Quinnipiac.
— Chris Roush, Dean of the School of Communications
The biggest change was the recognition of our international students and the education of accepting others, especially Muslim students.
The stigma from this very sad event cast a net over all Muslim people.
As an institution of higher education, we need to make sure that all community members are welcomed and accepted.
— Gina Frank, dean of graduate student affairs
The airline industry was obviously the most affected by the tragedy of 9/11 considering airplanes were used as weapons.
The FAA halted all flights for three days and passengers were left stranded. Passengers across the country and world found alternate ways to get home and some local residents helped stranded passengers in various locations.
It was strange that the skies were so silent for those days as we always hear planes flying over our house. The attacks impacted the economy of New York and especially the businesses surrounding the World Trade Center buildings.
The financial and airline industries were most affected and many new travel regulations were put into place as a result.
I flew to a conference in October. I wasn’t concerned about safety due to all the new passenger screenings.
However, an Indian colleague of mine faced discrimination when he flew to the same conference. He was told he couldn’t take the earlier flight that he had requested because he needed to be on the same plane as his luggage. Ironically his luggage arrived on the earlier flight that he wasn’t allowed to take.
— Patrice Luoma, professor of entrepreneurship and strategy
I would say for me, 9/11 was a huge reminder to be grateful for all the good things in life, to not take anything or anyone for granted.
I found out that morning when I came into work at Quinnipiac and watched events unfold on the television in the lobby of the Ed McMahon Center with other School of Communications faculty and staff.
It was a reminder to be compassionate, especially since we all knew that day that some of our students were trying to find out about loved ones who worked in the twin towers.
In terms of the media industry, I think it just raised a lot of questions about what's appropriate at a time when the nation is grieving.
News organizations debated what to show. I remember being shocked by a photo of a man who jumped from the second tower, shown in mid-air, falling against the backdrop of the building.
Major League Baseball paused the season. My dad is a huge Oakland A's fan, and I remember I disagreed with him about when it would be OK for games to resume. He was ready sooner than I was. I think his perspective was influenced by the fact that he was on the West Coast, much farther from the attacks than I was.
Perhaps one of the most classic media examples of the debate over when we could return to normal was the return of “Saturday Night Live” some weeks later. Their cold open included first responders and then NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The show's producer Lorne Michaels asked Giulani if it would be OK to be funny again. Giuliani famously responded, "Why start now?" It was a nice way to acknowledge the moment, but still move on.
— Nancy Worthington, chair and professor of media studies
I was a senior at the University of Maryland when I walked into the journalism building for my morning class when I saw the towers smoking on the TVs in the lobby.
Our professor was in the lobby, who was a former Washington Post reporter, and I immediately thought terrorism after which we saw the 2nd plane fly into the tower. He immediately canceled our class that day.
I remember going to our TV studio to help them get ready for that night's broadcast. I was in charge of editing the video of the towers while another student was in charge of the Pentagon attack. It was there that I saw the towers fall and frantically tried calling my parents to see if my dad had been in the city for work that day but not being able to get through — fortunately he wasn't.
At lunchtime, I went over to the football stadium for the weekly press conference that Ralph Friedgen held. They served tacos that day (Taco Tuesday) and the questions revolved around the days events over football. Would the team play? Who was affected on the team?
The biggest impact of 9/11 to me was how desensitized I was to the event after spending the day watching images. On that day, I didn't comprehend the chaos and impact to the world of the most deadly terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
Part of me still struggles with the images I helped broadcast that day with people jumping from the World Trade Center — albeit on a small scale. I think it certainly had a hand in me switching career paths to work in recreation over journalism.
— Mike Medina, director of campus life for recreation
On September 11, 2001, my family member’s lives changed forever. My grandparents lost their daughter, my mom lost her sister and the world lost a good person. My Auntie Gaby, who I am named after, was volunteering in the towers the day of the horrible attacks. My aunt was a lighthearted, beautiful, sarcastically funny, young woman who had her life stolen from her too soon. She was always helping others before herself, and was the type of person you hope your children grow up to be. Although I never had the privilege of meeting her, my family tells me we are similar in many aspects of life. I can only hope that I embody her spirit and warm soul to the world in her absence. She is our guardian angel, and we miss her more and more each day. Auntie Gaby, we love you.
— Gaby Treble '25
I had just moved to Buffalo, NY to attend graduate school. I remember being glued to the television like everyone else at the time.
The thing that I recall most vividly in the days and weeks that followed was this incredible sense of patriotism and unity that I think many people long for again.
Almost exactly a year after 9/11, I would meet my future husband. Upon meeting him, the 9/11 anniversary took on a whole new meaning. After all, his sister, Carrie Kennedy, worked for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on 9/11/2001. She was seated at her desk on the 37th floor of the north tower when she felt the plane hit the building.
She rarely talks about the day with us. All I know is that when the plane hit, her desk chair rolled back and forth across the plastic mat underneath it. She evacuated immediately and was on a ferry back to New Jersey when the first tower fell.
Because of the magnitude of coverage this year, my children who are 11 and 9 are asking more questions, specifically about their aunt who rarely talks about the day. In an attempt to answer their questions, she will be spending this anniversary in Connecticut instead of across the river from lower Manhattan. She has agreed to answer their questions and for the first time, I will get to hear her story.
20 years later and she still works for the CFTC just blocks from the site and no longer has a plastic mat under her desk chair.
— JoLynn Kennedy, assistant director of facilities and event management
An unbelievable event that happened right in front of me, with no understanding nor reasoning. When we lose people that we love, it changes us and reflects back to when we are in crisis or memory mode.
In the short time after, people were friendly, connected and more inclusive. These terrifying events bring people together for the short term.
As time goes by people return to their normal ways and our world, society and environment continue to batter. The past 2 decades seem completely opposing compared to the previous.
— Chris Bellizzi
September 11, 2001, was my 21st birthday. I was a junior at Quinnipiac, living in the Ledges.
I remember every single detail about that day, including what I wore and the weather. Everything is still so vivid and raw after all of these years.
I did not lose a loved one as a result of 9/11, but knew so many people who did.
Being an RA for first-year students, the other RAs and I walked around the building checking on our residents. There was an incredible sense of shock, confusion, and disbelief, but it also brought everyone together.
People were comforting complete strangers on the quad and honestly, no one knew what to do, so we all just came together.
Classes were canceled and my mother who worked at Quinnipiac handed me my birthday present crying.
It is such a somber day for so many, but it is also the day I was born. So every year on 9/11 I wake up, reflect, say a prayer for all of the lives lost and count my blessings, making the most of a day that is incredibly difficult for so many.
— Felicity Melillo '03
Frank Brennan was my suitemate and roommate during my 4 years at Quinnipiac.
He was a gentle giant…RIP Big Frank.
— Don Block '72
I worked closely with the staff of First Fidelity Bank. We lost four outstanding friends that day.
— Diane Gibeil, parent
Despite having not been born yet, the community I was raised in made sure to add significance to the grim events of 9/11. I've heard countless stories from teachers and faculty who swore by the genuine terror that grew over them and everyone watching, regardless of their location.
I've listened to the stories of firefighters battling for their lives to save others, even days after the planes hit.
Those same days, as well as the weeks and months after, were a time of mourning, but also a time of love.
Despite the horrendous events of 9/11, people were able to unite, speak and truly bond with one another. Hearing this makes me want to listen evermore, forever letting the perseverance of every individual involved be acknowledged.
Since that time, the world has learned remorse. Empathy has been taken to another level. Despite the ever-increasing enforcement of rules to enhance safety, arms will always be open for those who need them.
— Michael Yohe
My son just out of college was hired by a financial company towards the end of August and was to start his training in The World Trade Center beginning in September 2001.
There was a last-minute offer at the end of August by a company outside of NYC, which he decided to accept instead.
I still think about those days right after and what would have happened if he took the original job and was in the World Trade Center that day. It's something that is always there.
Anyone anywhere can be vulnerable and what is going on in the world right now can change in an instant.
In the medical field, I believe there is more of an awareness of what could happen and hopefully we are more prepared for anything.
— Robert Lombardo, part-time professor of diagnostic imaging
I was a senior in high school at the time, in a civics course no less. News spread and the televisions were turned on just in time to see the second tower hit.
They let all the students out early that day. My first thought was my family who worked at firms in the immediate proximity.
What changed for me, I think, was that for the first time, the world felt a little smaller and a little less hopeful.
I remember my mother balking at some of my university preferences because they weren't as close to home. I remember a general sadness, anger and apprehensiveness.
Growing up, I used to love airports because they always represented a sense of adventure. From that point on, it seemed like airports became a very suspicious place.
The world began to entertain abstract ideas like "a war on terror." It felt isolating.
— Matthew Warden '21
Though I wasn't alive during the 9/11 attacks, my mother was. She was pregnant with my brother.
I remember her being very scared and fearing for the lives of all who were trapped in the towers.
She works in New York currently but refuses to go anywhere near NYC on September 11th for fear that something will happen again.
— Corryn Ivey '25
9/11 showed the world that life is short and unpredictable.
A lot of people take for granted living in a free world and being able to not have to worry about their safety as much as a 3rd world country. We were able to see life through their eyes for a good few days.
Americans can be very judgmental and cruel to others that are not like them. For some, this event allowed them to see why others would try to leave their homes and escape the chaos.
On the other hand, the majority took the opportunity to proceed exiling others that are not like them, being afraid of them and treating them in ways blacks were treated during slavery. This caused so much chaos, hatred, fear, grief, loss and so much more among the citizens of the United States.
— Jasmin Amin '25
This terrorist attack didn't change me personally but I have a lot of friends back from my hometown who have lost family members including fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters.
This terrorist attack changed the world because it is what started the war, there were even more terrorist attacks happening after 9/11. After 9/11 air travel was also transformed to make it safer for everyone who was flying.
This affected our industry because now America is safer but still on high alert just in case something like that was to ever happen again.
— Gjergj Syla
I clearly remember going into work that morning. I worked for Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
I remember my friend called me as I was parking my car and said, "are you ok?"
He told me about the Trade Center and I looked from the roof of the parking garage and the north tower was on fire. I thought, must have been a small plane as not too long before that a baseball player crashed his plane and died.
I never thought about terrorism.
Soon after I remember our hospital went into activation. We were told about the terrorist attack and we prepared for the worst, especially from an IT perspective assuming we would lose power.
Both our hospitals were quite large. Our hospital went on diversion in preparation of getting victims. However, no one came.
Manhattan and the Bronx became different places. We didn't hear any planes at all, but if we did, it was the U.S. Air Force monitoring the airspace. It was so surreal.
The sky was filled with smoke for months. New York changed after that day. People became nicer and life slowed down. I became a more patriotic person and eventually joined my local CERT team here in Connecticut.
The CERT team is made up of town residents who help educate residents on being prepared for different types of events ranging from natural disasters all the way to terrorism. This is something I feel strongly about and changed my life forever.
— Steve Inzero '92
I was a medical student doing my Ob/Gyn rotation at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan that day. I remember very clearly going to the hospital that still morning and rounding on my patients at 5:30 am, and then finding a little lounge that looked straight down to the twin towers.
It was such a cool vantage point so I decided to try to catch up on some studying in that room while I waited for the rest of my team to round at 9 am. I must have fallen asleep because I woke up to the blaring of sirens everywhere and saw on the TV in the lounge the picture of the burning World Trade Center and the frantic reporters trying to make sense of why a second plane was flying so low nearby.
I looked out the window and saw the building burning and ran out to the floor to figure out what to do. We were told to clear the patients out of the hospital and that anyone who could walk out should leave without discharge papers or orders so that we could make space for all the casualties that would be coming in.
When the towers collapsed, my heart sank as I realized the futility of it all. By noon, we had cleared out most of the labor and delivery floor aside from a few in active labor.
We waited impatiently for survivors until the afternoon, as the realization that no one would be coming settled in our psyches.
We had no cell phone reception, no internet capacity, no way to reach family to tell them we were ok until later in the day.
After a long day of waiting, a group of us decided to try to walk down to ground zero to provide first aid but as we got closer, we realized that the rubble was all that remained.
I couldn't get back to my home in Brooklyn till days later. I remember clearly the smells of smoke and ash that invaded my Brooklyn apartment for months afterward. One day, while sweeping the ash off the terrace for the hundredth time, I realized that I could not stay in the city that I so loved any longer.
I already knew that I wanted to be an emergency doctor by 9/11, but that day cemented it for me.
The mass casualty response, the massive coordination, and the multidisciplinary and long-term frontline effort that many of my med school professors engaged in at that time was beyond heroic and the whole field of emergency medicine gained so many valuable insights into disaster preparation from this tragic day.
- Listy Thomas, associate professor of medical sciences
Luckily, the attacks on 9/11 didn't change me in the way that I wasn't even born yet, but my mom and my dad were pregnant with my sister.
My dad was in the second tower that got hit, working regularly. He made it out safely but if something had happened, I am not sure whether or not I would be here. It has changed me in ways that I don't think about.
We don't realize how many things in our lives have changed from the attacks on 9/11. Security has changed a lot, and we as Americans should feel safe knowing something like that won't happen anytime soon.
- Joseph '25
9/11 has affected everyone in a lot of ways both physically and emotionally. My uncle saw the whole attack and is traumatized.
It affected New York as a whole. Lots of families were affected. The city was a mess and came together as one.
- Jack Solomon '25
On 9/11/2001, I was in my office in Echlin Center.
I can remember what a beautiful day it was. I received a call from the Associate Dean who was at home and saw a plane crash into the south tower.
I called my four daughters, one in the Boston area, one in Sarasota, Florida, one in Kingston, NY and one in Hamden. It seems as if everyone got the news at the same time. Students came running out of the lecture hall and the classrooms screaming and crying. Many of our students were from the New York/New Jersey area.
I ran out and began trying to comfort them, letting them use my office phone to try to get through to their parents. We turned every television set on, running in and out of classrooms to watch and hugging very frightened students. We were all frightened beyond belief.
Would there be other attacks?
I worried about my family and I worried about all those students. I spent that day doing what I could for them, trying to be strong.
In subsequent days, I remember walking across the quad and looking toward the Sleeping Giant. I kept thinking a plane would fly across and hit us. It was eerily quiet. There were no planes flying. My daughter from Boston called me to say she was sewing my name and phone number in my grandchildrens' book bags so that someone from out of state could be contacted "just in case". My daughter from New York said that the reservoir near her which supplied water to New York City would be poisoned and there was high security all around it.
I think that day changed me forever. I still am fearful of it happening again. I was always compassionate, but seeing the fear on those students' faces made me even more so. My memories are of Quinnipiac, a place I loved and still love. I hope I did my best that day.
I think for a while, we were one in unity and caring. Now, I don't know. The world is so divided. I hope goodness and caring about one another will prevail.
- Nancy Loiselle, former assistant to the dean
Twenty years ago my husband and I were honeymooning in Mexico. In a six week period, I lost a student who passed unexpectedly, sat for my Ph.D. candidacy exams and planned an out-of-state wedding.
We saw Mexico as a respite and were anxious to get away. The day before we were scheduled to return we went on a boating tour to explore some of the more remote parts of the area. Half way through, our tour guide pulled up to a swamp side bar where 20 people were huddled around a very small black and white television set.
We joined the group and thought the grainy images were from a poorly produced movie. Unfortunately, they were live images from planes crashing in New York City. The international coverage of 9/11 was unedited and more graphic than what we would eventually see at home. Everyone turned to us, the only Americans in the group, and offered their condolences. It was surreal.
We immediately thought of our loved ones in the States. A cousin in the U.S. Army was working at the Pentagon, two sisters-in-law were headquartered in DC and we had so many friends and loved ones living in New York City. When we were finally able to reach a phone all of the lines were down and we couldn’t get through to anyone in the U.S.
For three agonizing hours we had no idea if our loved ones were OK. When we returned to the resort, we gathered with the other Americans on site to lift prayers for peace and protection, to share information about when flights would resume and try to make sense of the unimaginable.
My family is represented in every branch of the U.S. military and both my father and father-in-law were Vietnam veterans. Yet, that experience of witnessing an attack on the U.S. while in a different country, buoyed by the hospitality of strangers and returning to heightened hostility, was a life-changing moment of reflection that permanently shaped me personally and professionally.
As a graduate student studying public opinion, public policy and identity, my colleagues and I launched a study of public support for ethnic profiling because we wanted to better understand what was happening in the public sphere. Twenty years later and many of those lessons remain resonant.
- Khalilah Brown-Dean, associate provost for faculty affairs
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