Faculty and students discussed Sept. 11 and its effect on Main Campus a decade after the tragic event. The anniversary was recognized through events last week.
“Shock, disbelief, eeriness.”
That’s how Barbara Ferman, a political science professor described how she felt while watching the events of Sept. 11, 2001 unfold.
For second-year social work graduate student Alvaro Watson, it was a sense of defiance that emerged from the attacks.
“We have no country after this,” Watson, who is from El Salvador, said. “We need to do something to protect this country.”
Ten years after the attacks of Sept. 11, members of the Temple community vividly remember what transpired in the days and weeks immediately following it.
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Assessment Jodi Levine Laufgraben described the feeling of being an administrator and focusing on a university response after the attacks.
“People were just numb and just standing there not knowing what to do,” Laufgraben said. “At some point you had to move from the shock and the horror and the personal sadness, to, ‘OK, we’re at a university, we have students that we’re responsible for, what do we need to be doing?’”
Director of Campus Safety Services Carl Bittenbender said that, immediately following the attacks, there was an emergency meeting held by the vice president of the university, with all operations personnel that set up services for students affected by the attacks.
“We set up phone banks, had counseling services available [for those affected],” Bittenbender said. “We had a lot of preventive efforts in place for the institution.”
Laufgraben said that the mood on campus was very somber and sad in the days following the attacks.
“It’s all people were talking about. There were groups of people everywhere,” Laufgraben said. “I think it was a stunned climate, a very sad climate. A lot of us knew people [that had been affected].”
Despite the high tension and emotions on campus after the attacks, Bittenbender said that there was minimal violence in response to Sept. 11.
“I was very proud, at the time, of the Temple students,” Bittenbender said. “We never had any threats or intimidation against students of Middle Eastern descent that were at the institution or anything like that.”
However, Quaiser Abdullah, then-president of the Muslim Student Association, said that there were some threats and cases of intimidation directed at students of Middle Eastern descent in the days and weeks following Sept. 11.
“We had to address some small issues. I remember one student said she was walking through Gladfelter [Hall] and somebody pulled on her head scarf,” Abdullah said. “Within the same month, the window to the embassy office was broken.”
Abdullah is now the assistant director of information technology and technical support manager at the Education Computing Center.
He said that his organization had taken measures after the attacks with the university to combat intimidation.
“Immediately it was like, ‘OK, what do we need to do to make sure that one, Muslims are safe on campus, and we address any backlash and any questions we might be having?’” Abdullah said. “We got in touch with Campus Safety Services, we did up an incident report form so that anyone who was on campus could report anything to us. We started doing some outreach to people who had relatives in New York, to make sure that everyone was fine.”
Abdullah also said that since there are a lot of Muslims that go to Temple and live in Philadelphia, he didn’t expect a lot of backlash, but he expected something to happen because of the amount of tension and emotion that built up in the wake of the attacks.
As time went on, the emotion around the Sept. 11 attacks diminished slightly, but was still prevalent a year later when Temple held a ceremony on the one year anniversary of the attacks.
“We had a ceremony at the Bell Tower and they handed out pieces of paper [with the victims’ names]. We started reading the names of the victims from all of the sites,” Laufgraben said. “It was gray, dreary–another sad day.”
Leading up to the 10 year anniversary of Sept. 11, emotions from the attacks have begun to surface, as student organizations have held various events to commemorate different aspects of the day.
The Temple Students for Intellectual Freedom hosted a memorial concert on Wednesday, Sept. 7, which featured a speaker who was a paramedic that responded into New York on Sept. 11.
On Friday, Sept. 9, a Dissent in America teach-in featured two Temple students that led a presentation on being Muslim in America after Sept. 11.
Likewise, a ceremony was held at Ambler for students and faculty to remember the disaster.
The ceremony began at 9 a.m. with a viewing of news coverage about the anniversary. At 11 a.m., the ceremony moved outside where cadets of the Temple University Police Academy lowered the flag to half mast.
Participants then returned inside to hold a candlelight ceremony, and conduct a moment of silence to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“We thought students wanted to acknowledge the anniversary, and take a moment to remember the lives that were lost and celebrate them, and have people think about what has happened since then,” said Dr. Wanda Lewis-Campbell, assistant dean for student life at Ambler.
Lewis-Campbell said that the candle-lighting ceremony was a medium for students to share their memories of the tragedy.
“It’s a way for us to find out if anyone was touched personally, and also to have students and faculty come together to build a better America,” Lewis-Campbell said. “When you think about that day, everyone helped everyone. It didn’t matter what race or nationality you were. We don’t want to have to wait for tragedy to get back to what America stood for.”
While many people still hold different and powerful emotions regarding the Sept. 11 attacks, some are just happy that it’s still in the minds of students 10 years later.
“It’s nice to see the prevalence of the 10th anniversary,” Laufgraben said. “I think there was a fear that this would be forgotten, that people would go about their daily lives.”
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shannon McLaughlin contributed to this report.