Letter to the Editor

Professor+Miller+gave+a+presentation+last+week+on+his+experiences+during+9%2F11.

Photo by Trebor Maitin

Professor Miller gave a presentation last week on his experiences during 9/11.

I was honored to be invited by Kait Ahern and Dimitri Chernozhukov, presidents of the College Democrats and Republicans, respectively, to speak at the 9/11 memorial event (described in the Sept. 16 issue of The Lafayette) about my experiences at Lafayette on September 11, 2001. I thought your readers might be interested in some passages from my talk.

On a Tuesday I arrived upstairs at my 9:30 class, Introduction to Political Theory, and a couple students asked if we could turn on the T.V. They had heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

I could imagine nothing more than a crop duster plane which had broken a few windows, so I said no, that we have more important work to do, i.e., discussing Plato, and we shouldn’t let trivial events distract us. It must have been hard for the students who knew what was happening to concentrate. I still feel bad that I didn’t turn on the television, but I’ve since learned that many others underestimated what had happened on 9/11 when they first heard about it.

After class I went to the department office and asked the secretary if she had heard anything about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. She said yes and that another airliner had hit the World Trade Center and yet another crashed into the Pentagon. I cancelled the next class and went to the media room in the Kirby Hall basement to watch live coverage.

As the news spread, along with horrifying videos of the planes smashing through the World Trade Center and of people fleeing covered with dust, I witnessed among friends, family, and the college, emotions of confusion, sorrow, anger, and vulnerability. People wondered what was going to happen next and where. Who did this? Everyone I talked to reported that they’d been crying. In Thursday’s class a number of students reported that they knew someone in their family or their family’s friendship circle who had died in the Twin Towers. One student had a blindly violent reaction, declaring that we should wipe out a Middle East country. He didn’t seem to care which one.

There is a myth that the nation was unified after 9/11. Flags flew on many houses, but American Muslims often were not counted as being part of the unified nation. Hate crimes against Muslims rose 1617% from 2000 to 2001, according to the FBI. Of the American Muslims surveyed, almost 80% said they felt at least somewhat worried about the safety of their family in the U.S. On Sept. 17, in the wake of the violence against Muslims, President George W. Bush made a good speech. He said, “Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens.”

The only positive thing I can think of about 9/11 was the heroism of the first responders, the firefighters, police, and EMTs, who rushed into the building to help others, at great personal cost, often losing their lives and ruining their health. And there were other heroic people in the building, helping others get to safety, often losing their own lives while doing so. They should be an inspiration to us all.