September 11 A Community Retrospective

By Middlebury Campus

Author: [no author name found]

John McCardell, President of the College

I believe that the events of Sep. 11 reminded us on the Middlebury campus of a great many things. Though the attack occurred on American soil, its victims came from many nations; this, then, was not simply an attack on America, but an attack on all of those countries whose citizens worked in the World Trade Center, and from that simple fact we were reminded of how vulnerable we are and of how nationality is no inoculant to such vulnerability. The attack also reminded us of the importance of understanding histories, cultures, and languages other than our own, and I use “our” broadly, noting that this College community is broadly multicultural and subscribes to the belief that education requires every member of the community to broaden the limited reach of his or her own historical, cultural, or linguistic understanding. The attack also brought forth a latent but genuine sense of civic responsibility, which might be called patriotism, but which perhaps more accurately is a realization that members of any community have a duty to treat one another with respect and to regard as outlaws those who would violate this fundamental principle. Finally, I believe the attack brought us face to face with our own mortality and perhaps reminded us of how fragile and precious life is and also of how every moment, and every human relationship, matters.

Madiha Tariq ’04

The hate crimes against Muslims that followed the attacks of 9/11 made me very scared but I feel lucky to live amongst the open-minded and knowledgable members of the Middlebury community who never associated the words ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’ together. They were not only warm and sympathetic but also apologetic because of what the Muslim community was going through as a result of the hate crimes.

Will Cleveland ’04

One advantage of living here in the United States is the comfort of separation. We are safe behind our borders. But to me in the past year, I have found this to also be a serious disadvantage. I feel like I should have some deep insight onto how the attacks changed my life and my view of the world, but I don’t have any words like that; all I have is confusion. To be honest, my daily life did not change that much in the months following last September. Food still gets served in the dining hall, gas is still available at the stations, and TV shows still run pretty regularly, along with a million other little bits of life that still function without a hitch. In looking at TV just a few months afterwards, interest in the military action in Afghanistan had waned. People, myself included, just lost interest. We are Americans and we always win. It is not that I do not care about what happened, it is just that it is easy to lose focus. I do not live daily with the horror and fear associated with war; I live in the Middlebury bubble that keeps me happily ignorant of larger world affairs. But even if I were to read every article and watch every news program, I am not sure that such events would become more real to me. This age of instant information where news is reported almost as soon as it happens has desensitized me. We see sadness and suffering so often on TV that I (and I believe a lot of others) cannot even feel the tremors of an explosion that happened five hours away.

Greg Connolly ’02

September 11, 2001 had a strong but intangible affect on my life as a senior at Middlebury College. After the initial shock of grief, the lingering trauma mulled beneath and occasionally surfaced in the form of frustration. I believe that in those morning hours when so many of us sat in front of televisions in Proctor, Forest, McCullough, and witnessed the attacks, a heavy grief bore down on us. We looked around the room at friends whose loved ones were potentially victims; we leaned into good friends and watched, unable to speak to each other. Those first days I felt weak and vulnerable.
But as the year went on, I occasionally felt those familiar feelings of grief come over me. While September 11 affected us all differently, we all engaged in the same interior battles to deal with it. It was in talking with friends as late as March, May, and even now, that these feelings are being resolved. I have always said that the best thing about Middlebury is the people. And the way Middlebury students dealt with this tragedy is direct evidence to support that claim.
I tried to deal with the tragedy by altering my patterns. I began to make a strong effort at understanding politics and keeping up with the news, which I always found difficult to do at school. And I attempted to do more service work on campus and in town. I discovered that doing these things enriched my life and gave me a broader perspective. And today, still, I strive to become more socially-responsible. September 11 was a horrible day, but I believe that we should all make good come out of it. The Middlebury College community seemed to answer that call.

Travis Jacobs, Fletcher D. Proctor Professor of American History

9/11 is being appropriately remembered on its first anniversary, and Amereicans will continue to remember it, as they have Pearl Harbor and JFK’s assassination; it has not, however, changed America or American history the way Antietam did 140 years ago this September or Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. One year later it I do not see 9/11 has having ‘changed America forever.

Eric Davis, Secretary of the College; Professor of Political Science

In 1940, at a time of another world crisis, the poet W.H. Auden wrote that, although the world “in stupor” lay “defenceless under the night,” he would “show an affirming flame.” Since September 11, 2001, members of the student generation, here at Middlebury and elsewhere, have affirmed these commitments: to an increased global understanding, especially of the Middle East and the Islamic world; to the fundamental principles of the American constitutional regime and the need to uphold those principles, especially at those times when the political system is most sorely tested; and to lives of service, in order to give back in a meaningful way to the society whose resilience was demonstrated last year at this time.

Laurel Macauley Jordan, Chaplain

As horrifying as the terrorist attacks were last September, it was beautiful to see how our students, faculty and staff came together to care for each other in that difficult time. It is amazing to see how people mobilize and how hard people work whenever there is a crisis of some kind on campus. There were many people who advised behind the scenes or participated in the campus/town service that we held in Kenyon Arena. It was incredible what people were able to do in such a short period of time. But I have been asked before how my work “has changed” because of the attacks and I always say that my work has not changed – it was just more visible for awhile. The work of clergy has always involved both the great joys and the terrible tragedies in people’s lives. The magnitude of the tragedy was great, but trying to find hope in the midst of death was not new. Religious and spiritual leaders are always trying to get people to “ask the big questions’ and to think deeply about the meaning of our lives. So, these themes of grief, questioning, and recommitment which have been so much in the forefront this past year are always an important part of my work. I think the difference is that because of the size and scope of this tragedy, the historical implications for the future are much greater.

Alisa Young ’03

I never truly understood how my parents could recount, with vivid details, their exact location on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Sep. 11 will be the same for me. I will never forget exactly where I was. This tragedy of monumental proportion reminded me to let those closest to me know how much I care for them, compelled me to m
end relationships, and terrified me into awareness of life’s fragility. Studying abroad in Spain second semester also gave me an entirely different perspective. My Spanish friends conveyed a more global outlook. They reminded me of how horrific acts of terrorism are committed frequently in other nations and have been for many years. They reflected on terrorist groups within Spain, the Middle East and Latin America. They expressed both their deep empathy and yet they also noted what they perceived to be the self-centeredness of the American people.

Suleiman Mourad, Instructor in Religion

Not to undermine the magnitude of the crime, but my teaching of Islam will not be affected by the September 11 murderous attacks. I believe that keeping the incident alive in our classroom and feeling urged to reorganize our courses because of it will only serve the interests of al-Qa’ida terrorist organization and by extension the interests of modern militant Islamic movements. The way I teach Islam highlights the richness and diversity of this religious tradition so students will have an understanding of the variety of Muslim beliefs and attitudes towards other Muslims, and towards the rest of the world.

Mayo Fujii ’05

As tragic as Sept. 11 was, I found that it served as a valuable reminder of the important things in our lives that we most often take for granted. From that first week of school on, I had a much-needed fresh outlook on the people I met and the importance of constantly seeking the diversity of personalities and opinions that exist throughout Middlebury. At times in the months that followed, I’d remember that the classes I was taking were not about the assignments and grades, but about what I wanted to do after college and how I could contribute to the bigger picture. Above all, I was reminded of how important it is to be aware of the current world events that easily fade into the background of busy campus life.

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September 11 A Community Retrospective