9/11, One Year Later: BC Reflects

9/11, One Year Later: BC Reflects

For Patrol Officer/EMT Patrick Rose and his family, Boston College is more than a workplace. It is alma mater for his wife, Karen M.Ed.'92, and a place of learning for their daughter, Kimberly, a junior in the Lynch School of Education.

The University community gathered in O'Neill Plaza at noon on Sept. 11 for a moment of prayer. (File photo by Lee Pellegrini)
This Wednesday, BC will take on another important role for Rose: as a community remembering the victims of last year's terrorist attacks, which include Karen Rose's first cousins, Peter and Susan Hanson and their 2-year-old daughter, Christine, who died in the crash of hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 at the World Trade Center.

Karen Rose plans to go to work as usual that day, as does her husband, who along with Kimberly expects to join faculty, staff and students at memorial events on campus.

"We are looking forward to a new year," said Patrick Rose in a recent interview. "Time does heal."

As Boston College prepares to observe the first anniversary of Sept. 11 [see separate story], members of the University community are reflecting on the day's events, images and aftermath.

Sept. 11 touched some at BC in a direct, personal way - a family member or friend lost, a near-brush with tragedy, a loved one in harm's way. But even those who were less connected to the events found themselves drawn to examine their lives and professions in a new light. For BC, a scholarly institution equally dedicated to faith and formation, Sept. 11 represented a test for its soul, as well as heart and mind.

File photo by Mike Mergen
One immediate consequence of the 9/11 attacks was the call-up of US military reserves, and those who answered included BC police officers Santos "Joe" Perez, an Air Force reservist who for the past year has been stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base, and Vinny Sena, a Marine who saw duty at Westover Air Force Base.

Another who served his country was BC Electrician John Robishaw's son Erik, who fought in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division.

For months, John Robishaw scoured the newspapers, cable television channels and military news Web sites for word on his son's unit.

"It was something any father would do," said John Robishaw.

Upon Erik's return home this summer, the elder Robishaw sought time with his son for a father-son chat.

"But soon I realized how mature he had become and realized he already knew all the things I wanted to tell him," said Robishaw.

Center for Corporate Citizenship Director Bradley Googins was at a hotel one block away when the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

Watching TV coverage of the disaster, seeing billowing smoke from the crash site, and hearing fighter jets zipping by the hotel windows, Googins said, "[It] became painfully clear how isolated and helpless we felt so far from home, family and work. I could understand how painful was our separation from our families at such a time as this.

"What really surprised me was the pain from worry and anxiety about our fellow workers. Workplaces seem to have such formal and functional connotations: cubicles, desks, supervisors, cafeterias. But the caring and concern, and even the tears of those early hours on September 11 brought home for me that workplaces are really communities, and very important ones at that."

Rev. Richard McGowan, SJ, an adjunct associate professor in the Carroll School of Management, approaches the one-year mark of 9-11 with bittersweet memories of six former students lost that day - including Dan McNeal '94, whose nephew Fr. McGowan will baptize this weekend, and Welles Crowther '99, a lacrosse player and volunteer fireman whose trademark was a red bandana.

"I picked all over Welles Crowther for his red bandana," Fr. McGowan recalled. "I really gave him the business. I nicknamed him Garibaldi, leading his revolutionaries through Europe."

Crowther went on to be an equities trader for Sandler O'Neill, and was one of 66 the investment-banking firm lost at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Survivors told of a man who stepped out of the smoke and horror and shepherded them to safety. They did not know the man who saved their lives, but this they remembered: Wrapped around his mouth was a red bandana.

On move-in day at the close of August, Fr. McGowan, who lives in Gonzaga Hall, noticed an arriving freshman wearing a red bandana. "I almost teared," he said.

"Life continues."

Those with a responsibility for helping to devise the University's response to the tragedy also dealt with their own emotions about the events and their implications.

Preparing for a special Mass in Conte Forum the night of Sept. 11, Vice President for University Mission and Ministry Joseph Appleyard, SJ, thought of a former student he knew had been working at the World Trade Center, and whose whereabouts were still unknown. That night's Mass ended with the singing of "America the Beautiful," but when he reached the final verse, which included the lines "Thine alabaster cities gleam/Undimmed by human tears," Fr. Appleyard found "I just couldn't do it."

Fr. Appleyard returned to find that his former student had left a message saying he was safe.

"We always like to say that BC is a community, but Sept. 11 put some flesh and bone on those words," said Director of Campus Ministry James Erps, SJ.

"From the prayer service we had just hours after the tragedies to the Masses and outpouring of care and concern, it was truly BC at its best," said Fr. Erps, who credits his staff of campus ministers for their outreach.

"It was cura personalis in action," he said. "I was so proud of them."

The Boston College Police Department worked extra shifts on Sept. 11 and for weeks afterward, in an effort to heighten security at on campus and at BC football games. "A lot of people wanted to be with their families on that day, but this department gave that up in order to be here," said Chief Robert Morse.

BC formally recognized the department's devotion to duty in the face of unprecedented circumstances, presenting officers with an individual plaque and a letter signed by University President William Leahy, SJ, Executive Vice President Patrick Keating and Financial Vice President and Treasurer Peter McKenzie.

"Your response and subsequent actions went a long way in managing the situation at a critical moment in history," the letter read. "Putting your own shock and bewilderment aside, you worked tirelessly at calming the community you had sworn to serve."

The Graduate School of Social Work played its own part in dealing with the tragedy, operating a drop-in support center for persons trying to locate family members and friends missing in the Sept. 11 disaster. GSSW administrators, faculty and staff assisted some 60-70 callers in the center's first week, as well as representatives from several families who visited campus. Volunteers made phone calls, tracked down photographs or useful information, provided referrals and, above all, sought to offer a haven for those living with fear and uncertainty.

For GSSW Dean Alberto Godenzi, the experience underscored an important facet of the social work and human services disciplines. "There is frequently a tension between individual, clinical social work, and the macro approach, which deals with problems on more of a society-wide basis," he said.

"Sept. 11, as we have seen, concerned global issues that social work as a profession increasingly deals with: poverty, misery, violence. But the clinical aspect of social work - where the focus is on the practitioner and the individual needing help - was desperately needed that day, and in the days that followed."

Faculty members often viewed the events not only through personal and professional filters but through their students' eyes as well.

"For students, 9/11 clarified the importance of politics, which can seem so far removed from 19 and 20-year-olds," said Prof. Marc Landy (Political Science). "Now, they know how stark and powerful politics can be. It really shook them up - which is not a bad thing."

Class discussions during the first few days after the attacks, Landy said, "reminded me of how previous little thinking we had had for that part of the world." As a result, he said, the students "were very eager to talk, but did not have much to draw on.

"It caused me to reflect, as a teacher of American politics, on some pretty basic questions, such as 'Why do they hate us?' And in so doing, it led me to a deeper appreciation of our system."

Although BC made resources available to help faculty, staff and students deal with the tragedy, members of the University community also turned to one another for help and comfort. Those first hours after the news came from New York City and Washington, DC, saw many new bonds of friendship forged.

Sumit Mallick '05, whose freshman year was all of a week old that day, went to find his roommate, whose mother worked in one of the World Trade Center towers.

The student's mother was unharmed, but for Mallick and his new friends it became a "eye-opening" experience.

"I think that Sept. 11 caused people in our dorm to come together like a family. Everyone knew someone who was effected by the tragedies, yet we barely knew each other.

"From the moment it happened it altered us. You begin to realize that you're not just in school to get an education and get a job, you're here to serve others - both at home and internationally."

-Stephen Gawlik, Reid Oslin, Sean Smith and Mark Sullivan

Boston College Magazine has compiled a list of Sept. 11 victims with ties to the BC community. The page can be viewed at www.bc.edu/publications/bcm/fall_2001/ll_remembered.html. BCM also published a story about Welles Crowther, which is available at www.bc.edu/publications/bcm/summer_2002/ll_masked.html.


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