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We asked, “What does the 20th anniversary of 9/11 mean to you?”

The 9/11 Memorial, unveiled on the World Trade Center complex site on the tragedy’s 10th anniversary, is titled Reflecting Absence. (Photo by Axel Houmadi via Unsplash)

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, we asked students, staff, and faculty members to reflect on what the day means to them. Here are their answers.

“My son was only three weeks old when I watched in horror the tragedy of 9/11. I was scared for my son and what the future might hold for him. What gave me hope was seeing Americans, and the world, put aside their differences and come together to support each other. My hope is that 9/11 will become a day of unity as we remember those who were lost that day and in the wars that followed.”  
President Krista Newkirk

 

"Twenty years ago, I was a U of R junior. I vividly remember the details from that entire day, including sitting in the Fairmont Hall basement watching the news into the wee hours of the night. Looking back, what strikes me was how our University community truly came together to grieve, talk, try to understand, and eventually process the horrific events of that day and its aftermath. While two decades have passed, I am still grateful for the support I felt that day from my faculty, student worker supervisors, and fellow students."
—Laura Gallardo ’03, ’22, director of advancement communications and donor relations

"On Sept. 11, 2001, our nation was attacked in a way unlike anything we had seen in a generation. I have walked the halls of the Pentagon. I remember vividly my first visit to New York City as a student and seeing the World Trade Center. Yet, when this day comes around each year, I think of the feeling I had that morning as I tried to reach friends in Washington, D.C., and New York to find out if they were OK.

Even in recent weeks, as we have watched the American withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of America’s longest 'war,' the 20th anniversary of 9/11 reminds me of the cost of the freedoms we enjoy in this country. One of the many lessons I carry from my days as a member of the armed forces of the United States of America is that freedom is not free. A debt is paid by the bravery of those who often go unrecognized, and we must not take for granted the sacrifices that are made by many each and every day." 
—Senior Diversity and Inclusion Officer Christopher Jones

Alhough I was only two when 9/11 happened, it has, and continues to have, a profound impact on my life, as well as the lives of Americans around the country. Since that day, many aspects of our lives have been altered, for the better or worse. Today, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I think it’s of the utmost importance to remember and honor those who have lost their lives on 9/11 and its subsequent events. We owe our feelings of safety and security as Americans to those who made the ultimate sacrifice on that day."
—Chloe Levine '22, president of the Associated Students of the University of Redlands

"For me, it's personal.

It's been twenty years since:
I felt useless and needed at the same time.
I kept it together for 16 hours, and then privately sobbed for three. 

It's been twenty years since I wondered:
if my sister was in the city that day, 
if my colleague's brother got out in time,
if my cousin, a New York City police officer, was safe. 

It's been twenty years since:
Peter perished in the second tower.
Christina lost her mom, who was working in the Pentagon.

Twenty years seems like forever, and it seems like yesterday."

University Dean of Student Affairs Donna Eddleman

"To me, this anniversary is a reminder that our experiences are part of what we call history. Sept. 11, 2001 was my very first day of graduate school. I had moved to Princeton, New Jersey, just an hour from Ground Zero only days earlier. And a mere hours before the attacks, I was on the Staten Island Ferry staring at the Twin Towers and thinking about where life would take me. Within hours of the first crash, my university was on lockdown, students and faculty were huddled around televisions (there were no smartphones!), and people who looked like me were presumptively suspicious. Today, we can look back at this as ‘history’ only because we have pushed ahead through fear, suspicion, and sadness. It is a valuable reminder, especially for today.”

Riaz Tejani, professor of business ethics

“Although I was technically alive at the time of the September 11 attacks, I was far too young to comprehend or remember anything that happened that day. All I know is what my mother often recounts: I was about 8 months old, sitting on her lap as she watched the news in utter disbelief. Now, we are entering an era in which most college students were not yet born on September 11, 2001. Therefore, I believe it is imperative that we continue honoring the thousands of lives lost that day—especially those of the first responders who gave the ultimate sacrifice—so as not to forget; because our freedom, liberty, and safety are incredibly fragile.”
—Cameron Kelly '23

"When I remember the confusion and disbelief of that day as we watched it unfold, I think of the entanglement of our world, of ourselves with each other, but also, more remotely, ourselves with those whom we fear, dislike, or simply oppose. And then I think of the war just ended, its scenes of betrayal and shame. It is so urgent that peoples, nations, and movements understand this entanglement and use our understanding to build alternatives to war."
—Christopher Ocker, assistant provost and interim dean of the Graduate School of Theology

"[The anniversary of] 9/11 brings me back to a moment of trauma and sadness. I had a ticket to fly home to New York City that day. My mother was in a plane headed for New York City and was just minutes away when the attacks occurred. It could just as easily have been her plane that was chosen. The attack, senseless death, destruction of the place where I went to my prom, and the place I call home, felt quite shocking, painful, and personal.

Now it is also a reminder of all the divisiveness and lack of understanding that exists across societies; the reminder that violence and terrorism should never be the answer, yet such practices are everyday occurrences. It raises questions of foreign policy and our place in the world, and questions of how we should memorialize and remember all those who die from state- and nonstate-sponsored murder. Paradoxically, 9/11 is also a reminder of resilience and the possibility of unity through our common humanity."
—Sharon Lang, professor of sociology and anthropology

"I was one year old when 9/11 happened, it did not affect my life as it did the generation before me. However, it is still incredibly important to learn and commemorate the tragedy that happened 20 years ago. We need to learn from our mistakes, and push forward to a better future. 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'—Winston Churchill'"
—Kyle Bott '22


"The 20th anniversary of 9/11 of course brings up where I was, and what I was doing, when the Twin Towers were hit. And it makes me reflect on how being a 'patriot' took on additional meanings in our political vernacular. But I’m also pulled back to where I was on 9/11/2002, on the first anniversary: teaching my first class at my first job on the east coast, and encountering students whose families and loved ones were lost, hurt, or scarred by the event itself and its fallout in American political life. They were traumatized, and were trying to make sense. So our classes had to be spaces of support and care in addition to inquiry and creativity, and students had to be able to be people, children, and friends in addition to learners. Looking back, it was a lesson that I needed, too, about what college is for and how we can support students in their educations."
—Steve Wuhs, professor of politcal science and interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

Do you have a comment on the meaning of 9/11 that you would like to share? Email bulldogblog@redlands.edu.

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