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Fall 2001

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Campus shaken by terrorism

     News of September’s terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon hit Skidmore hard, since so many students’ family and friends, as well as many alumni, live or work in New York City. By midday, CNN news coverage was running in Gannett Auditorium; many classes were given over to discussion of the news; collegewide e-mails and a crisis Web site gave information on campus events cancellations, blood donation schedules, and the availability of chaplains and counselors; and Scribner Library posted several online links for those wanting to read and learn about terrorism.

Keith Ranaldi ’05 shares his thoughts at the Case Green forum.

     By 5 p.m., a rapidly arranged campuswide forum on Case Green drew nearly 1,000 participants eager to join a “search for understanding,” in the words of Jamienne S. Studley, Skidmore’s president.

     In opening the forum, Studley said, “The goal of terrorism is chaos and disruption of normal behavior. Our dedication to the fabric of our lives, our friendships, and our work here is the greatest collective response we can have. If we fall apart, that’s what’s truly dangerous.” As Roy Ginsberg, professor of government, told the students, “This is an imprinting experience in your political education.” He introduced several resource people in counseling, student government, campus safety, diversity and affirmative action, and other areas, and then opened the forum to student comments.

     Here are some excerpts from the two-hour gathering:

  • “What are we going to do? What’s our job here today, under this sun? Let’s gather everything we have, incorporate it into ourselves, and translate it into something more beautiful than anyone’s ever seen.”
  • “I was student-teaching in first and second grade, when the principal announced there would be no outdoor recess because there were too many bees on the playground. Then a note came telling teachers the news but asking us to keep it to ourselves until the children could go home and discuss it with their parents. Now I’m struggling with what I’ll say to them tomorrow. They’re so impressionable….If you come in contact with young children, this is a really important time to give them a hug and help them.”
  • “I was really angry. The terrorists took away a principal American right —the right to feel safe and free. But this country persevered through civil war, world wars… America is best when our citizens our united.”
  • “A lot of us tried to give blood but there was already a four-hour wait. But one thing we can do is pray; whether you believe it or not, prayer does have power to it.”
  • “I just got back from a year in China, where I experienced people hating me just because I was an American. We’re not the only people on this planet, and we’re not untouchable. This is a great opportunity to reassess our culture and what we mean to ourselves and to other people in the world.”
  • “My cousin was hit with debris from the World Trade Center and she’s in a coma. She’s not an American citizen, and I’m not American, so it’s surprising to be involved in this. But please try to keep composure; to lose your composure is to lose your humanity.”
  • “My family comes from Israel, so this isn’t new to me. Recently a bomb fell near where my grandparents live, and I was angry that no one here really understood my feelings. Today I realize they didn’t understand because they just had no idea. So before we place blame or hate on people, we should try to understand them, or even blame ourselves for not educating them to how we feel.”
  • “When I finally got through to my family and friends by phone, I realized I’m part of a community. We’re all part of the Skidmore, Saratoga, and world community. When I hear talk about bombing whoever did this, I remember that they’re part of our community. Think about those connections: bombing some other country is bombing someone’s family.”
  • “All day I wanted to be everywhere at once—at my high school, which I hated, right near the World Trade Center; at my college, which I love, where people were as frantic as I was; with my family (dusty and shaken, but unharmed); with my friends at other schools. Seeing my high school covered in rubble and dust, it looked exactly like I felt. If you’ve ever hated someplace you had to be, let go of that, look around you, and love wherever you are this minute.”
  • “Watching the same TV news footage over and over is desensitizing us. If you just sit and watch it, like it’s regular television, it’ll seem funny soon.”
  • “Five months ago, I tried to kill myself. The only thing that brought me through that was a lot of love from a lot of people. I encourage you all to turn to the person next to you now and say ‘I love you’—because you’re here.”

     “I love you all,” concluded Studley. “When all of you are joining with such affection and thoughtfulness, we’re in good hands; we’re going to be fine.”

Students observe a moment of silence in response to the 9/11 terrorism.

     Other campus responses included donation drives on behalf of rescue workers; e-mail to the alumni list (at alumniupdate@skidmore.edu), seeking news of alumni harmed or unharmed; an online discussion forum; and a student-led candlelight service. The opening of the campus’s new Intercultural Center was held as scheduled, complete with its panel discussion on the never-more-crucial topic of “Living in a Culturally Diverse World.” Watch the next Scope for further coverage. —SR


© 2001 Skidmore College