On the occasion of Sept 11


My memories of September 11th will forever be intertwined with Smith. It was my first year, and we had just started classes. I was sitting in the Cushing dining room, paging through the New York Times, when one of the student workers came out of the kitchen and told me that, according to the radio, a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers.

I remember the all college meeting that afternoon, where John Connolly, the interim president who had been promised one quiet year, read an incredibly eloquent speech. Reflecting on the then-Smith President’s words after Pearl Harbor, he said:

In 1941, right after Pearl Harbor, Smith’s President Herbert Davis struck another and courageous note. At the height of the national war-frenzy he cautioned the community: “Do not beat the drums too loudly, to rouse all the old fierce primitive passions; do not let us go into [War], delighting in the gleam of the beast of prey in the eyes of the young men. Do not let us abandon all values, and lose ourselves in easy emotions of rage or hatred.”

How much more do those words apply to us right this minute, where we as yet have no definitive knowledge even of who the instigators of this morning’s heinous deeds were. And whatever nationality or race they turn out to have been, shame on us if we take that as license to condemn or hate an entire people or race. After all, did we condemn all Americans because of the actions of one Timothy McVeigh?

I remember being so proud to be a Smithie right then.

Ten years later, Professor Connolly has written some reflections about September 11th that I find thought provoking and very different from the mainstream media’s coverage.

In addition, a 2005 Smithie has used her memories about the anniversary as a way to discuss the often unheard moderate Muslim perspective:

Sunni Muslims (approximately 80% of the global Muslim population) choose their leadership at the local level and the person may or may not have chaplaincy training. Imam is simply the person leading prayers. Increasingly, and particularly in Western Muslim communities, this position is becoming a more organized position involving ministry similar to other faith counterparts and congregational community leadership, but not always. Take this into consideration when you hear about “an imam” saying something in the news. This local leadership without a hierarchy is also why it can be difficult to hear the “moderate Muslim voice” that many non-Muslim are looking for – we don’t have a Pope or other hierarchy that speak for the followers.

Here’s to Smithies keeping the conversation going.

Other Smithie 9/11 Posts:


One Response to “On the occasion of Sept 11”

  1. 1 Anna

    Thanks, Sarah, for your remembrances. I’ll always remember that morning as a defining part of my Smith experience. Thanks for pointing out John Connelly’s essay. The three All-College meetings that year – Convocation, 9/11, and the April meeting on racism – were all emotionally resonant to me for different reasons, and he pointed out relationships between them that I had never considered.

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