9/11 After 20 Years

This fall we mark the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, when almost 3,000 people lost their lives – in buildings, in airplanes, on the ground – and many more lost family, friends, and loved ones. Normal, everyday people. Husbands and wives, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, and first-responders. Lives forever changed.

Other people had their lives changed that day as well, in particular Arab and Muslim Americans, members of groups stereotyped as terrorists and somehow perceived as not “American.” Those numbers are not usually counted in the dominant narrative.

As an institution dedicated to knowledge, all experiences of 9/11 deserve our attention as we mark this day. As a community of teachers at Marquette we should find opportunities to help our students unpack the complexities of an event like 9/11; to help them think more deeply about things that aren’t so easily defined in black and white, us and them. How do we do that? How do we help students use stories to think empathetically about their human brothers and sisters, reflecting the deep intellectual tradition of a Catholic, Jesuit institution? How do we help them connect events and their impact on our current way of life? How do we help them hold compassion and empathy for all the lives lost and impacted on September 11, 2001 AND understand who else was harmed in its aftermath that seldom gets attention?

Here are three faculty voices sharing their own experiences and thoughts in this realm. Business instructor Dan Geigler shares his very personal account of being in the south tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11 and the ways in which he witnessed humans helping each other in multiple ways and how his faith carried him through the day. Dr. Louise Cainkar shares the ways in which Arab and Muslim Americans experienced that day and subsequent years, both as grieving Americans and as persons falsely held responsible.  And Dr. Melissa Shew and Father Ryan Duns have a conversation about how we are called to bring to the surface ideas and narratives that need to be heard but are sometimes kept invisible because they may be perceived as controversial, or scary, or their truth is too painful for some to confront. Examining multiple perspectives has value and purpose; it helps our students become the compassionate, empathetic, reverent human beings we hope them to be when they go from Marquette into a complex world.

It would seem to me that a valuable way to pay homage to those lives lost and impacted is to teach about them. Our undergraduate students today were not born yet in 2001. Their ideas of September 11, 2001 are grounded in myth and the memory of others. Let’s make it our obligation, in the deepest of Jesuit traditions of growing in empathy, to create space for students to use this remembrance to continue to love and respect all human experiences. It is by doing this that we live our Catholic Jesuit mission - to be in solidarity with our human community, wherever and whoever they may be - and to work for and promote peace in a world surrounded by strife, conflict, and division.

~Jennifer Maney, Director, Center for Teaching and Learning

Video interviews with Marquette faculty and staff

Sheena Carey interviews Mr. Dan Geigler, Instructor in the College of Business, who was in the south tower on 9/11.  Dan tells his story of escaping the tower, and what it was like in the hours and days after the collapse, and how his faith helped him through the ordeal.

Dr. Jen Maney interviews Dr. Louise Cainkar about the reactions of Muslim and Arab communities in the days and years after 9/11.

Dr. Melissa Shew and Father Ryan Duns have a conversation about how we are called to bring to the surface ideas and narratives that need to be heard but are sometimes kept invisible because they are perceived as controversial or too painful.


Video reflection questions for students:

  • Personal narratives/stories can be an important way to build relationships in the classroom. They can also help develop empathy and solidarity with each other.
    • Dan talks about the ways in which strangers reached out to help him. Have you ever had an experience where a stranger reached out to help you in a specific situation?
    • He talks about how his faith helped him get through the day on September 11, 2001. No matter what your religious expression, what helps you in a moment of crisis?
    • Dan discusses how this event shifted the way he approached his professional goals. How do you think you might prepare for life’s many twists and turns, when things don’t go the way we want, or our plans need to be altered?
    • Why is it important that we remember events like 9/11?
  • Stories are seldom simple and rarely one-dimensional. How do we help students see multiple aspects of stories that often reflect division instead of unity?
    • Dr. Cainkar talks about the different ways in which Arab and Muslim Americans experienced the aftermath of September 11, 2001. How do you think that this event harmed our fellow brothers and sisters, both those explicitly harmed in the attacks and those harmed in a more invisible way?
    • She asks, how is it in our country that fellow citizens can so easily be turned into perceived enemies? What history lies behind this capacity?
    • What is the danger of stereotyping people who look different from us and then acting on those stereotypes? How do differential positions of power play a role?

Video reflection questions for faculty:

  • How do moments like this marking of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 present opportunities to dig deeper into the human experience and the complexities around it. In other words, how do we allow these events to build authentic solidarity?
    • Shew and Fr. Duns discuss several strategies of addressing complicated issues or hot topics in the classroom. How can we utilize these to help students better understand complex ideas?
    • How can provocative topics help us live our mission of a university using the deep intellectual Catholic tradition?
    • How can imagination and recall help us look at multiple viewpoints and positions especially when large world events take our breath away?
    • How can you create a culture in your classroom where these types of topics can be discussed in meaningful ways?