September 11

Brandeis Reflections Five Years Later

A series of programs on the Brandeis campus, reflecting on the implications of this world-shaping moment in history and exploring a vision of a better world.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Brandeis Day of Service at Cycling Forward

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Brandeis students assisted riders and helped with kids' activities at the end of an annual three-day trek from Ground Zero to Boston. Sponsored by Hillel, Waltham Group, and the Cycling Club. Visit to read about the ride.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Moment of Silence, Reflections & Readings

Passersby didn't seem to wonder why the large group people were standing together in a circle in front of the library. They knew it was 8:45 am on September 11, five years to the moment from the day the first plane hit the tower.

People purposefully walked to join the circle, which wordlessly expanded to include them. There was something powerful in simply standing there together, sharing this solemn moment of remembrance as a Brandeis community. After several minutes of silence, some remarked how the crisp fall day was very much like the weather on that day five years ago, the beauty of the clear, cloudless sky in stark contrast to the terrible tragedy unfolding. Another talked about the natural response to tragedy – revenge – which must be overcome by working for peace. Alwina mentioned Mary Jagoda, the Brandeis student who lost her older brother in the first tower that day, her younger brother to an incurable childhood disease years earlier, and then lost her own life in a tragic boating accident two years after 9/11, leaving her parents childless. Some visibly showed emotion; others stood silently, quietly remembering. Father Cuenin reminded us never to lose hope for a better world in which injustice and terrorism would be overcome by compassion and peace.

Mitzvah (Good Deed) Marathon

Simple, easy-to-do good deeds to honor the memory of the lost and serve as a reminder that goodness and kindness prevail. Even the smallest gestures can work wonders to bring people closer. Participants in the Mitzvah Marathon chose from a list of 10 good deeds – or came up with their own – in an effort to make a difference, however small, in the life of another. Sponsored by Chabad Club.
  • Give to charity
  • Make PB&J sandwiches for a food shelter
  • Say a prayer for peace
  • Buy a pastry (proceeds go to feed hungry families)
  • Join the Unity Torah
  • Light a candle in honor of this Shabbat
  • Call family or friends
  • Take a moment to read and reflect
  • Lay Tefillin
  • Create get-well cards for hospitalized children


Throughout the day, students wrote their thoughts, memories, and other reflections of 9/11 on the windows of Shapiro Campus Center. Sponsored by Student Activities.

Three hundred forty-three brave firefighters entered the
twin towers knowing full well they may not get out. These
brave men gave their lives to serve others.
Never forget.
My dad was supposed to be at Liberty Plaza.
Thank God he had to get a mole removed in
I remember that day. No one knew who was attacking us
or why. It was all a shock. We were at war, but we didn't
know with whom or why. You could see the shock coming
from Ground Zero for weeks from where I lived in upper
Manhattan. For the first few days, New York looked
deserted, like a ghost town. No one was in the streets.
But then, entire neighborhoods seemed to unite – no
matter what ethnicity you were, everyone bought American
flags, and it seems that there were vigils every other night.
I hope that sense of camaraderie continues to unite us all.
Sept 11, 2001 – Tragedy
Sept 11, 2006 (5 years later) – Thousands of American
flags planted on the Shapiro Campus Center's Great
Lawn – one for every person who died. In the back-
ground, behind the flags planted in the shape of the
Twin Towers, people play frisbee.
Sept 11, 2011 (10 years later) – ?
It all sounded surreal. My friend was on the phone.
"You mean one plane into the towers? Another one?
There's no way both can be an accident." It wasn't
until my trig teacher canceled our quiz that I knew
something was up.
Why do we need tragedy to teach us
to reflect on ourlives and unite?
It feels like it happened last year.
I remember exactly what I was doing that morning. I was ignorant,
I didn't even know what the towers were. When my dad told me the
news that morning on my way to school, I didn't really understand
what it meant. I was too busy studying for my quiz in AP European
History. It wasn't until that afternoon, when we watched the TV
reports in class, that I actually understood what had happened.
Rest in peace!!
Some TV networks canceled their programming.
When cable channels go silent, you know
something big has happened.
As an American living in Germany, 9/11 was shaped by the
fact that I was not there – yet I was seeing images of NYC,
which I have visited many times, on TV. Because of the time
difference, it was afternoon; we couldn't get through by phone
to the U.S. – we didn't know if our friend who worked at the
WTC was at work that day or not (she wasn't). The next day
there was much sympathy, but later some of that was lost
after Iraq and Afghanistan. When I was little, my mom would
always point out the WTC when we visited NY. That's why
I'll never forget.
May God bless you and keep you
May God cause his spirit to shine on you
and grant you peace.
May peace be upon us and over all humanity.
Brandeis Remembers
"They are not gone who live in the hearts they leave behind."
– Native American Proverb
Watched them fall. Like rain in summer.
Best friend's uncle was on the 74th floor.
He got out.
May redemption find us all.

 Students Speak: A Brown-bag Lunch Discussion

Students from different parts of the country and the world spoke about where they were on 9/11, how they reacted, and how the events of that day changed their worldview. Sponsored by ISSO and Student Activities.

Read an article from the Daily News Tribune about the "Students Speak" event.

The Cultural Politics of 9-11 Commemorations

Ed Linenthal, the author of Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America's Holocaust Museum, spoke about the challenges that arise when people create memorials to tragic and deadly events. Sponsored by the Anthropology Department & the Master's Program in Cultural Production.

Read a summary of Linenthal's speech, including observations from the creation of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the memorial for the victims of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Read "Tour of Duty," a poem written by Jamele Adams reflecting on the events of 9/11 and their reverberations five years later.

Remembering the Past, Rebuilding the Future

Read an article from the Justice about the interfaith service.
Students joined Rabbi Allan Lehmann, Father Walter Cuenin, and Imam Talal Eid in an interfaith service to remember five years back and look forward to a new world, grounded in compassion and peace. Sponsored by the Chaplaincy.

Aftermath of 9/11

The evening program, "Aftermath of 9/11," featured Michael Avery, a professor at Suffolk Law School and president of the National Lawyers Guild, and Brandeis American Studies Professor Shilpa Dave.

In a talk titled "Civil Liberties after 9/11," Avery outlined what he called the Bush administration's assault on civil liberties, with particular attention to new techniques in domestic intelligence-gathering. Of particular concern to Avery is the administration's policy of eavesdropping on American citizens without the benefit of a warrant, a matter on which he, among others, is taking the government to court.

In remarks titled "Going to School: Immigration & U.S. Education After 9/11," Dave spoke about the effect of post-9/11 security measures on American higher education. He paid particular attention to the precipitous drop of international students – especially at the graduate level – in U.S. universities. Diminishing access to the best and the brightest, Dave warned, could threaten the long-term future of American colleges.

PAX chair Gordie Fellman hosted the event, which was attended by approximately 40 students.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Obsession: What the War on Terror is Really About

This film begins with the declaration "Most Muslims in the world are decent and peaceful. This is not a film about them." The film is a chilling portrayal of the radical Islamic ideology that motivated terrorists on 9/11. It shows extensive footage from Muslim media, suggesting that radical Muslim propaganda inciting people to violence against the United States and the West permeates the media and is being taught to even very young children. Other "victims" of radical Islam are the hundreds of millions of moderate Muslims, who feel that their religion and their image is being "hijacked."

American Studies Professor Jerry Cohen led a conversation after the film screening in which members of the audience discussed narratives not represented in the film, such as violence by radical Muslims against other Muslim sects, and alleged missteps, deliberate or not, by the United States against Muslim countries, to which terrorist attacks are a response. Cohen suggested that Muslim fundamentalism is not sufficiently explained by any acts of present or recent administrations, that it pre-dates any such alleged acts. Furthermore, although there have been isolated demonstrations in the United States, there has been nothing on the scale of the violent protests such as have been seen in Paris or London.

This event was sponsored by the Brandeis Republicans, cosponsored by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cycling Forward to Afghanistan: A September 11th Widow Speaks

 Susan Retik was seven months pregnant with her third child when her husband was killed on American Flight 11. Profoundly moved by the support she received, she reached out to widows in Afghanistan without such support. Founding Cycling Forward, a fundraising bike trek from Ground Zero to Boston, Susan raises money for Afgani women and their families, transforming personal tragedy into hope. Susan spoke at the Women's Studies Research Center on campus and shared photos of her recent visit to Afghanistan.

"Before 9/11, I lived with blinders on," said Retik. "After 8:45 am on September 11, the blinders flew off and I found myself standing in the crossfire of hatred." Quoting Cycling Forward cofounder and 9/11 widow Patti Quigley, Retik said, "You can't always choose your role in life, but you can choose the way you play it."

Over $300,000 was raised in the first two years of Cycling Forward's 275-mile rides, money that goes to support three different projects supporting women in Afghanistan. One of those projects is a poultry-rearing program in which each widow receives chicks (many purchased from past program participants), chicken feed, coop-building assistance, and veterinary training. Within a year, widows will be able to provide for themselves and their families by selling and eating the eggs and chickens.

It was appropriate that this talk was held in the Women's Studies Research Center, whose motto reads "Where Research, Art & Activism Converge." Eman Hedar '07 and Jennie El-Far '07 read "The Alchemists," a poem by Center Associate Director Marci McPhee about Retik and Quigley and their work.

This talk was sponsored by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, the Brandeis Cycling Club, and Our Voices Together. Visit Beyond the 11th to read about the ride.

Sponsored by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life in collaboration with the Anthropology Department; the Chabad Club; Chaplaincy; Office of Community Service; Cycling Club; Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences; Hiatt Career Center; Hillel; International Students and Scholars Office; Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies Program; Brandeis Republicans; Student Activities; Student Life; Waltham Group; and Our Voices Together.