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9/11, 20 Years Later

A front-page news story titled, "National terrorist crisis united campus, students wait for answers"
The front page of The Meredith Herald on Sept. 12, 2001; image courtesy of the Meredith College Archives

Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. 20 years after these attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, people across the country are remembering the impact of these events.

The Classes of 2022 and 2023 are the final classes from which the majority of traditional-aged students will have been alive on Sept. 11, 2001. While students from these classes will not remember the day itself, students now can still reflect on the impact of 9/11 on the country and their education. Dr. Jeffrey Martinson, Associate Professor of Political Science, said that while Americans today, including his students, seem less concerned with terrorism than in the five to 10 years after 9/11, it’s important to remember some of what the country was feeling following the attacks. “9/11 brought with it a tremendous unity in the population,” Dr. Martinson said, “and I was reflecting on that just recently. That’s something that [current students’ generations] don’t know. But it’s been in some of the commentary lately, [and] people [are] being careful because it’s unity out of horrific tragedy. But the country came together in a way that is difficult to describe, and the political infighting that had preceded it and has followed it, and in the time after has gotten…bad to the point of not just threats of violence but actual violence between these factions, was gone. It was turned off.”

20 years after 9/11, it is also important to remember the negative impact that the events had on Muslim Americans for decades following the terrorist attacks. The xenophobia and racism following the terrorist attack has continued to enact harm on Muslim Americans today. Also worth considering are the continuing impacts on Afghanistan and other nations. Dr. Martinson pointed out that “we’re commemorating that 20th anniversary at the same time we’re dealing with the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is…the second act of that terrorist attack, the retribution, the meting out of justice” in the eyes of the U.S. As David Leonhardt of The New York Times put it in a recent “The Morning” newsletter, “Some wars have left clear legacies of progress toward freedom...The post-9/11 wars have not. If anything, the world has arguably become less democratic in recent years.”

Dr. Martinson said that he felt it’s important to remember the U.S.’s impact on the rest of the world. “The U.S. is not as isolated as some would like to think that it is,” he said. “The things we do overseas matter…to the people there. This story of death and destruction and just absolutely visceral hatred was something that was already occurring overseas with the U.S., in the eyes of the terrorists, as the antagonists of the story. And I think, as an American, that’s wrong on the one hand, but it’s also informative because it shows us the things that we do overseas do have tremendous impacts and this splendid isolation that we have is only in our minds, and we are part of the story already.”

While Meredith’s campus is far from New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, in September 2001 the community was still left in shock following the terrorist attacks. In the Sept. 12, 2001 issue of The Meredith Herald, students, faculty and staff reflected on the tragedy in classes. The College also held two prayer vigils on Sept. 11. The Sept. 19, 2001 issue highlighted a button-making effort by Meghan Griffith, ‘04, which was coined “Wings of Hope.” Proceeds from the buttons were donated to the American Red Cross and Marymount Manhattan College in New York. In the following weeks, blood drives to benefit victims of the 9/11 attacks were held as the campus community continued to heal with the rest of the nation. Now, 20 years later, students can continue to educate themselves about the attacks of 9/11 and the events following, pay their respects to those who lost their lives and remember the unity that the U.S. felt following the devastation of that day.

By Olivia Slack, Co-Editor in Chief


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