Discussion Memorializes Tragic Events

On the evening of September 11, 2011, Colgate capped off its long weekend of com memorative events with dinner and discus sion at the African, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center. First, guests settled in with some food and light conversation. Thomas A. Bartlett Chair and Professor of English JanePinchin, Interim President of Colgate during the September 11 attacks, delivered a keynote speech. This was followed by informal, semi-mediated dis cussions at each table about the devastating events and their lasting impact.

“The goal was to bring people together from across campus and the local community to dis cuss and reflect on a day and event that impact ed everyone in the room,” the event’s organizer and senior Casey Macaulay said. “I personally felt it was a success because I took away from the discussion the sense that people weren’t about to forget the vulnerability our society has and how that binds us together.”

The lively discussion was certainly provoked in part by Pinchin’s provocative and captivating speech. She brought the audience back with her words to Colgate and America in 2001, a world we hardly remember and a day we could not possibly forget.

“A few moments have had the power to de fine an American consciousness, our collective self; moments like the day John F. Kennedy was shot. But no moment in the memory of living Americans equals September 11, when almost 3,000, more or less the population of a univer sity like ours, were killed on home base, in that center of finance, center of the arts, America’s melting pot: New York,” Pinchin began.

She went on to describe the campus climate after the attacks: moments of fear and sorrow, gestures of care and unity.

Ever wearing her professor’s hat, Pinchin went on to challenge the group: “Questions re main and, without doubt, have deepened and widened over time,” Pinchin said. “Do we need tragedy to unite us? How do we create institu tions that always foster tolerance and the brav ery of inquiry? How do we keep the scale large – keep metaphoric bedbugs at bay?”

She suggested that 9/11 evoked the best of our collective self, and challenged everyone to think about the reasons why.

With these questions in mind, the group of about 40 or 50 students, faculty and commu nity members in attendance broke into smaller groups to discuss. The conversation varied in its level of seriousness for each group, but par ticipants enjoyed an environment of open and interesting communication.

“I think it was very interesting to find how the younger students were reacting to something that was such a major influence on my life, especially since they were so young in 2001. I was also very pleasantly surprised to see how many [students] came out to this,” 4-H program coordinator and retired English teacher Peg Louis said.

Many of the students in attendance were seniors, but the other classes were represented as well.

“I decided to come to this event because I wanted to reflect upon how we coped with Sep tember 11 in other parts of the country and to think about how our community has evolved ten years later,” first-year SamRosecan said.

“I thought this would be a nice way to talk through some of these issues and ideas,” senior Alex Doering said. “And I’m happy I came; I thought that the general themes and ideas pertaining to 9/11 were covered prettywell.”

The entire event ended up going seam lessly, besides a small technological malfunc tion. Community members and students were engaging each other and everyone present was invested in the discussion.

“I thought it went wonderfully well,” Pinchin said. “Combining tables seemed terrific, and the idea of having people from the community and students led to a wonderful discussion.”

Contact Rebekah Ward at [email protected].