From the Alumni Magazine, Fall 2001 How the W&L community reacted in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Editor’s note: The following article written by Deborah Marquardt was originally published in Washington and Lee University’s alumni magazine in fall 2001. We share it now as a reminder of the immediate impact of the attacks on our community.
Family ties. As the images of the fiery World Trade Center buildings and the hole in the side of the Pentagon begin to fade, the thing we won ‘t forget is the role that technology played in the day’s events. Cellphone calls from crashing airplanes and e-mail messages exchanged between loved ones and friends brought the horror home in a very eerie and immediate way.
W&L ‘s Alumni Office reacted quickly. Colin Tate ’01, assistant alumni director for online communications, set up a special place on the Alumni home page where alumni from Washington and New York could check in and share their stories. Between Sept. 11 and 15, more than 157 messages were posted. Some were simple, “I just talked to (name) and he (or she) is OK.” Others put us there.
James Ambrosini ’90 wrote: “My train pulled in under the WTC right after the first attack …. Police told us to evacuate because there was a bomb. We all ran outside to a scene of utter chaos. There were people lying in the street covered with blood and [there was] debris everywhere. I looked up and saw a huge hole in the top [tower] with flames spewing out. People were jumping out. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
From Marshall Snyder ’77, “Since retiring from the Marine Corps in 1997, I have been supporting the Pentagon Renovation program as an engineer …. I was in Wedge 1 off Corridor 3 in the C- Ring conducting a pre-move survey when the airplane hit the E – Ring at Corridor 4 several hundred feet away. I felt and heard a double thump …. I went out in the corridor and saw crowds of people heading for escalator banks …. Several people that I worked with closely are missing and presumed dead. Most of what I worked on for the past year has been destroyed by the crash and fire. After having served in Grenada, Beirut and Desert Storm, the irony of almost having been killed in the Pentagon isn’t lost on me.”
“Hatred is the source of such devastation and has never done any good in this world.”
~ Shehzad Khan Niazi ’02, The Ring-tum Phi, September 2001
Many messages asked for prayers for friends, family and co-workers. And others asked the questions to which there are no answers:
Peter Cavalier ’76 worked in midtown Manhattan and was not hurt, but the pain was just as real. “The horror of the past week really hit me when I attended a memorial Mass in our town. Our parish lost 72 people (yes 72), mostly Cantor Fitzgerald employees. One of them is our neighbor, a single working mother who leaves behind a 17-year-old high school senior who also lost his uncle in the explosion. He is now all alone. I just read this morning in the local paper about my twin sons’ basketball coach who perished …. Several other fathers of children in my sons’ classes are unaccounted for. As a parent of three teen-aged boys, I’m fielding questions I never anticipated about life and death, reinstitution of the military draft. There are some things I don’t have rational answers for. ”
As a W&L family, we suffered losses and grieved together. James A. Gadiel ’00 worked at the prestigious trading firm of Cantor Fitzgerald, which suffered the most losses of all the firms — more than 600. The company occupied floors 101 to 105 of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center, the first to be hit. Rob Schlegel ’85 died in the Pentagon, just weeks after earning a promotion to commander. Chris Edwards ’99 lost an aunt and uncle on the flight that crashed into Tower One. Jonah Glick ’90 lost a brother, Jeremy, one of the heroes on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. A current student lost a parent, but the family requested that the name not be released.
Carrie Baker Tydings ’95, director of media relations for the National Cathedral in Washington, helped organize the national service where we prayed for them all.
On campus, The Executive Committee urged students to give blood. Some drove all the way to Charlottesville to do so. “It’s something we have the power to do,” said Tran Kim ’05. The morning ration of ”Campus Notices” in our daily e-mail was punctuated with invitations to prayer services and messages such as this one from Shehzad Khan Niazi ’02, “The Muslim League would like to express its sorrow and to offer its condolences to everyone affected by the tragic events that unfolded yesterday. We deeply mourn the enormous loss of life and strongly condemn the brutal and horrible acts of terror. Our prayers are with you. ” Later, in The Ring-tum Phi, Niazi said, “Hatred is the source of such devastation and has never done any good in this world.”
Faculty members, such as Tim Lubin, assistant professor of religion, posted helpful Web links. Sites devoted to topics such as the Islamic responses to the Sept. 11 attacks furthered our understanding of the events. John Blackburn, an instructional technology specialist at Leyburn Library, built a site with facts on Afghanistan.
With a tragedy of this scale, we all look for ways to contribute.
The question now is, “What next?”
Acting president Larry Boesch ’69 answered it for us in a message sent to the University community on Sept. 11: “In accordance with our educational mission, I would ask that our response to today’s events include serious reflection and discussion of the many issues raised for our futures. The world in which we live now is different from the one to which we awoke this morning.”
Washington and Lee Faculty responded quickly with course offerings for winter term. Robert Strong, professor of politics, will teach a course on terrorism. The class has been opened to all students, and so many have expressed an interest, he will teach three sections. Students will be treated to several guest lecturers, some from the W&L faculty and others from outside. “The course will not just be focused on Sept. 11, but it will be broader based,” says Strong. “We want to look at what motivates terrorism.”
Richard Marks, professor of religion, will teach a course on Islam. “This course provides a general view of Islam, not just fundamentalism,” he said. However, one of the books students will read is Karen Armstrong’s “The Battle for God,” which discusses fundamentalists movements among the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths.
Wiliam Klingelhofer, an art historian by training who is director of international education, will offer a course on Islamic art and architecture. The course will provide a cultural and historical perspective, which, he says, is important at this time.
“The world in which we live now is different from the one to which we awoke this morning.”
~ Acting President Larry Boetsch, September 2001
History professor Barry Machado is noticing unusual interest in his course on 20th century military and diplomatic history – more than double the usual number of students.
Meanwhile, throughout campus, discussions are popping up in nearly every discipline, and events continue to touch lives here.
Several reservists in the University family have been called or expect to be:
Mark Fontenot, Greek housing supervisor, serves with a Virginia Air National Guard fighter wing unit servicing F-16s near Richmond; the planes are flying daily Combat Air Control missions. Paul Burns, University safety officer, serves with the U.S.
Army Reserves as a chaplain, and Scott Rhodes, assistant director, physical plant, serves with the U.S. Navy Reserves, attached to Combat Amphibious Group 2, headquartered at Little Creek Naval Base in Norfolk.
W&L also has four students in the Reserve Officer Training Corp. (ROTC), two freshmen, one junior and senior Quincy Springs, head of lnterfraternity Council, who will be commissioned in the Army on June 5, the day before his graduation.
The aftershocks of Sept. 11 will be felt for a very long time – even in Lexington.