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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Ten years later: we remember

Published: September 9, 2011
Section: Features

“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” -Sandy Dahl, the wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl

As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaches, people across the United States find themselves reflecting on the day that simultaneously shocked the nation and unified the American people.

Most of Brandeis’ current students were only in elementary or middle schools when they news of the attacks broke. Although most understood the seriousness of what had just happened, many struggled with fully grasping its magnitude. Ten years later, they are able to reflect on their initial feelings.

Following Sept. 11, 2001, the university administration’s first course of action was ensuring Brandeis’ safety. Director of Public Safety, Ed Callahan, remembers that morning quite clearly. He left for Brandeis as if it were just any other morning but he was soon confronted with the news that the United States was under attack. Calls started coming in as people began to wonder how Brandeis would remain secure in case of an attack.

During the next few weeks, Callahan sat in a variety of meetings as the administration implemented various plans to keep Brandeis students, faculty and staff safe. While many members of the community welcomed the safety measures—a checkpoint was set up at the front entrance—others found them to be too restrictive.

“It is very difficult to balance safety and security and freedom,” Callahan said. Thus the checkpoint was eventually dismantled once additional safety measures were put in place.

In Callahan’s opinion, people need to continue to take safety and security seriously as he believes history repeats itself. Many Brandeis students also hold a similar viewpoint. For example, Ben Henig ’12 recognizes the importance of the safety measures taken in airports.

Henig was attending a Jewish Day School in Pennsylvania when he first heard about the attacks. At just 11 years old, he was not yet old enough to understand the significance behind the attacks. As time passed, however, he started to believe the attacks proved that the United States is not invincible.

“Returning from Australia, where I could walk onto a plane without even having to show an ID, I have gained a new-found respect for all of the security measures in place in airports around the country. While it’s certainly a nuisance to have to wait in line and answer all the security questions, I would much rather have all these measures in place than risk another airplane-oriented attack,” Henig said.

While for many, Sept. 11 was a lesson in the importance of security, others saw the attacks as a lesson in American pride. When Student Union president Herbie Rosen ’12 first heard about the attack on the World Trade Center, he was sitting in his sixth-grade English class. It took him a little while to fully comprehend the situation. Living in Minnesota, he wasn’t even sure where the World Trade Center was. As he watched the news and saw the worry on his parents’ faces, however, he truly began to realize how terrible the attacks were. Now, as an American studies major, Rosen’s appreciation for the nation continues to grow.

“What astonishes me is how quickly we as Americans reacted in terms of national pride and I just hope that that kind of national pride will always continue,” Rosen said.

While Sept. 11 certainly united the American people, some feel that if it takes a tragedy to unify the nation, that is a tragedy within itself.

“While it is sad to say, it is inevitable that tragedies do unify our nation. I can’t remember a time when patriotism was stronger than in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks,” Henig explained. “All of the petty things people argue about in everyday life simply get forgotten when the country faces a tragedy of the magnitude of Sept. 11.”

Meanwhile, other students hold that Sept. 11 has an important lesson in the dangers of ignorance. Following Sept. 11, many areas of the United States experienced a rise in Islamophobia. Brandeis students recognize how important it is not to blame an entire people for the actions of one terrorist group. After all, this type of behavior feeds into ignorance.

Alyssa Green ’15 acknowledged that as she first internalized the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks she felt frightened by the images of the terrorists on the television screen.

“These mysterious people scared me, from a culture and land unlike mine. People started taunting Muslims who went to my school and I began to hear about ‘Islamophobia’ in America. I was scared because I was ignorant of their ways and due to the phobia of those around me. Eventually, I educated myself of Muslim culture and understood that not all Muslims were terrorists. They are a people to be respected just as everyone else” Green said.

People can learn a variety of lessons in the face of tragedy. Looking back 10 years later, Brandeis students and staff recognize the lessons Sept. 11 has to offer. Whether it’s the importance of security and national pride or the dangers of ignorance, they are lessons that people have not forgotten as the 10-year memorial approaches.