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Message to the Campus

From:  President
Sent: Saturday, September 11, 2021

Dear College Community,

My deepest condolences to you for your loss of loved ones on or because of September 11th and my deepest appreciation for all those who served to help and protect us on this dark day in our history and beyond.

Let’s pause for a moment and remember where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001. My memories actually starts on the evening of September 10th.  I was on my way home from class at TC, driving along the FDR, probably talking on the phone as I usually do, and marveling as I do even now at the beauty of NYC at night.   As I drove toward the Brooklyn Bridge to my apartment in Fort Greene-Clinton Hill, I could see the twin towers of the World Trade Center peeking at me. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see them. 

The next morning, September 11th I readied for work at Medgar Evers College, dressing as I watched the news.  I remember it was a beautiful day, with clear blue skies. Out of my bedroom window, I remember seeing a plane in the distance, which struck me as being odd in that fleeting moment, because I didn’t recall ever seeing a plane from my apartment before.   

As I neared the end of getting dressed, there was breaking news.  The anchor was talking about a plane that may have hit the towers and there was a picture of the one of the towers with smoke pouring out of it. I recall thinking that this must be a movie and wondered how my channels were changed since I lived alone.  But the longer I watched, the more horrifying it became that this was happening in real life.  Then there were reports of a second plane and the second tower.  I remember frantically calling my parents in St. Croix, they had heard reports too.  By now I was panicked.  My cousin worked in one of the towers. I tried calling her phone with no response.  I called other family members, friends, I needed to have some connection at that moment.  I didn’t know what to do, what was happening.  I could hear the sirens of ambulances as they sped down Myrtle Avenue.  I didn’t know what to do.  But I knew I didn’t want to be alone, so I went to work where I could be with other people.  Much of that time at work was a blur.  We may have cancelled classes, or maybe I couldn’t take the fear and uncertainty anymore, and decided to return home.  Despondent, I spent the next hours on my stoop listening to sirens, talking to my neighbors. I was worried.  I still could not make contact with my cousin.  I vacillated between going inside and watching the news and turning it off and sitting outside.  It was there later in the afternoon, I started to see droves of people walking in the neighborhood.  One of them was my neighbor’s husband.  He worked in one of the towers. He was covered from head to toe in sooth.  He told us of his experience and that he had walked home over the bridge with so many others.    

We finally did make contact with my cousin.  She was shaken, but alive. She walked to Alphabet City to some of my other relatives.  My cousin Maggie worked on the 105 floor in the second tower. She would share of her experience that she was reading her bible when the plane hit the first tower.  Her coworker ran to her and said they had to go. Her coworker got on the elevator, but my cousin didn’t because there were too many people so she took the stairs.  It saved her life. Years later, though she would die of cancer like so many others. 

Today, I am thinking about my cousin Maggie and I know you are thinking about your loved ones and friends.  We remember all the people with names we do not know.  We reflect on all the lives we loss on and because of September 11 at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania and today we are also called to remember our strength as a country.   

We remember and are grateful for the heroes that were born on that day.  The ones that diverted the fourth plane from its intended target, first responders, medical professionals, emergency services personnel, fire fighters, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and ordinary men and women who made a difference on September 11th and because of it.   We remember, as John Kerry observed that   “the worst day we have ever seen, brought out the best in all of us”.  Let us hold tight to the memories of the people we loved and the patriots we honor with the promise to live a vibrant live where we are good to ourselves and each other.

Claudia V. Schrader, Ed.D.