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Graphic of the New York skyline, featuring the twin towers.

Graphic by Grace Merkle, The Wright State Guardian

By Pete Murphy
Contributing Writer

Both current and past students of Wright State University (WSU) reflect on the events of Sept. 11 and how they have shaped their lives.

Fear from above

Since the events of Sept. 11 took place 20 years ago, many WSU students today are too young to remember what exactly happened that day; however, some students have faint memories of what occurred.

“I remember there was chaos and how they sent every kid home,” Kendra Fields, an undergraduate English literature major who was in kindergarten at the time of the attacks, said. “By the time we got to school, the attacks had already happened, and the teacher had put it up on the TV.”

Photo originally published in the September 13, 2001 edition of The Guardian.

Graphic originally published in the September 13, 2001 edition of The Guardian.

The feelings of chaos and fear were also felt by students in 2001. Josh Sweigart, former news editor for The Wright State Guardian, who was on campus during the attacks, recalls very similar feelings.

“There was this feeling of severe vulnerability and fear,” Sweigart said, remembering the moment that the idea of multiple attacks sunk in.

“A little while later, a plane hit the pentagon; then a plane went down in this field in Pennsylvania. So once there were four planes, you were like, “Could there be 20 planes? Are these things going to start falling from the sky?”
Josh Sweigart, Former News Editor
Josh Sweigart
Former News Editor

Students shocked at the attack on the U.S.

As the news of the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings flashed on TV screens around the nation, Wright State students were gathered together in halls, lounges, and dorms watching the carnage as it happened.

By 10:30 a.m., Tuesday morning, students were gathered in the commuter lounge at the Student Union watching the buildings collapse, later, at the noon news recap, the crowd had grown to more than 20 people, some shedding tears, others on cell phones calling friends and family, all watching the tragedy unfold on television.

Students watching the bombings expressed their disbelief. “It’s amazing the senselessness…you realize you’re not invincible,” said Emily Denton, a first year medical student. Some students like Donna Sparks, a senior English and art education major, feared the outbreak of war when watching the bombings on TV. “I’m horrified and scared. It’s like Pearl Harbor,” said Sparks.

Excerpt from the September 13, 2001 issue of The Guardian

Photo originally published in the September 13, 2001 edition of The Guardian.

“…there was an immediate reaction. I remember a member of the Sikh community came into our office—it was either that day or the day after—asked us to do a story about concerns about anti-Muslim sentiment. And so—Sikhs—as you probably well aware, wear head dresses some have, like, ceremonial knives. And, they’re very conspicuous. And, they were concerned that they were going to be targeted. There was absolutely some anti-Muslim sentiment. So we did the story on that. But, I think that the prevailing and then, of course, the prevailing sentiment that day, was definitely one of vulnerability, in this sort of sense, that any of us could be next.

Interview with Josh Sweigart, former news editor for The Wright State Guardian

Political cartoon originally published in the September 19, 2001 edition of The Guardian.

A Change in Attitudes

An effect of the attacks that many students may not remember is how the U.S. began treating people of color, especially individuals who looked like they were from the Middle East. At the time of the attacks and for months after, there was a growing anti-Muslim sentiment.

“There was a member of the Sikh community who came to our offices either the day of or the day after. [He] asked us to do a piece on anti-Muslim sentiment,” Sweigart said. “They were concerned that they were going to be targeted.”

While there was no immediate response against people of Middle Eastern descent, there would be a change in how Americans viewed them.

Indian student calls for peace

International students feeling American reaction

The same day the United States experienced terrorist attacks, WSU graduate student Tejdeep Singh Rattan was interrogated by shoppers at a nearby Meijer store.

“People were asking me where I was from, what my nationality was,” said Rattan, an Indian Sikh who has lived in the U.S. for six years and is an American citizen. “No one really asked me that until now. What could 1 say? It made me really mad,” he said.

Since the terrorist incidents in New York City and at the Pentagon on Tuesday, Sept. 12, there have been reports of Islamic Americans living in the U.S. fearing potential retaliation to the events.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions about the source of the attacks,” said Mohamed Al-Hamdani of the Commuter Student Association and cultural arts chair of the Union Activities Board, who said he wasn’t worried yet about any retaliation on campus.

“I have cousins and friends who feel like they are being stared at,” said Rattan.

“I know there is some discomfort here,” said Melissa Giles Markland, associate director for residence life, last week after Tuesday’s tragedies.  “I think it’s having an impact—I do think they (international students) feel like they’re being targeted,” she said

"Any name that starts with Mohammed is going to be in trouble,"
Tejdeep Singh Rattan
WSU graduate student

Excerpt from the September 19, 2001 issue of The Guardian.

“I always get stopped more, and the [airport] requirements for me are different,” Anjali Edwards, an undergraduate in psychology and neuroscience, said. “I see my [adopted] parents go through security, and they have no issues.”

With a country as diverse as the U.S., there will always be opinions that reflect that diversity. From student to student, both past and present, it is clear that the opinions and experiences that emerged because of the attacks on 9/11 have begun to subside within the last 20 years; however, it is also clear that the experiences that the previous generation spoke of are still a distant dream. 

8:46 a.m. — “Remembering 9/11: Wright State Stories From the Past and Present” is dedicated in memoriam to the passengers of American Airlines Flight 11 and those killed at or near the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

Web Design by Abhishek Pandya and Dylan Collison, The Wright State Guardian

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