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On the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the University unites in remembrance

It has been five years since September 11 became more than a date. Since then, former students have gathered in unity on campus, and current students have united in remembrance of the event of their generation. Today, to commemorate the day’s anniversary, students reflect on the way the day changed their lives.

Black Tuesday

Junior biology major Abhinav Nafday keeps a Ranch 1 restaurant receipt in his wallet. It reads “09/11/01 11:14 AM.” It’s his only evidence of having lived through that day.

Five years ago, Nafday was a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, a block away from the World Trade Center. The students were given orders to evacuate after the second tower was hit.
“The details are still vivid. There is a 360-degree panorama that I can refer to even now of the collapsing tower, my school in the background, and of all the frantic people. Just a scene of complete madness,” Nafday said.

At this point, basic instinct of survival kicked in and Nafday and a group of his friends ran uptown. They were covered in white dust from the debris, but did not look back. They managed to make a stop at Ranch 1 on Seventh Avenue.

“I keep it in my wallet to remind me of that crazy journey,” Nafday said.

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon students “overcome with grief and confusion” gathered on the Cut that Tuesday morning, according to a September 17, 2001, article in The Tartan.

“In my 20 years here at Carnegie Mellon, I have never seen something so amazing, with the students and community coming together in a way like never before,” said then-Dean of Student Affairs Michael Murphy in the September 17 article.

In the days following, students painted the Fence with messages of hope and peace as they came together with candlelight to share their grief.

And now that he’s on campus too, Nafday doesn’t forget his first-hand account of that Tuesday. But while his receipt will always serve as a reminder of the pain he felt, he does not allow himself to think about the events unless he’s provoked.

“I have put it in my past,” he said, “but I still don’t feel ready to watch all the movies that have been coming out about it.”

Changes over the five years

Since 9/11, heightened security at airports has become a thing of life. But there are many programs, sprung as a result of the terrorist attacks, that many students are not aware of.

In a September 1 article published in USA Today, journalist Greg Toppo discusses a program called Project Strike Back, a project jointly headed by the Department of Education and the FBI. The program, created 10 days after the terrorist attacks, examined the financial aid records of college students who were targeted by the FBI in terrorist investigations. Toppo wrote, “It’s unclear whether it netted any terrorists, according to U.S. Education Department documents.”

The program was created partly because Bush administration officials believed terrorists were obtaining money through identity theft and fraud.

Although the program ended this June due to dwindling requests from the FBI and is just being made public to those in the higher education community.

“There can and should be ways that we protect security — obviously this government does that at the IRS, at the Social Security Administration and a lot of places,” Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings stated in the USA Today article. “And we work hard to do that.”

Terry Hartle, senior vice-president of government and public affairs for the American Council on Education, told Toppo the existence of the program did not surprise her.

“It’s hard to be surprised when it has become obvious that the government is mining every database that they have,” she stated. “In the war on terror there are no safe harbors where federal data is concerned.”

Remembering 9/11 today

Just as the campus united five years ago, Carnegie Mellon is holding events throughout the week to honor those who were affected and to bring meaning to the day.

Today, there will be four moments of reflection at the Fence. A single candle will be lit at 8:46 a.m., 9:02 a.m., 9:37 a.m., and 10:03 a.m., representative of the significant events of 9/11. Also, Student Life will promote “My Good Deed Drive,” an initiative to have people mark September 11 by doing service or a random act of kindness.

“I think it’s the sort of thing our students do well,” said Renee Camerlengo, director of Student Life, who is also in charge of the week’s commemorative events.

Tomorrow, there will be an open forum titled “How has your world view been shaped by the events since September 11, 2001?” in McKenna-Peter Room at 7 p.m.

To end the week-long remembrance period, there will be a memorial service in Kresge Theater at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The service will pay tribute to the lives of seven alumni lost on September 11 and commemorate the victims’ families.

At the service, an undergraduate student from Shanksville, Pa., will share the personal perspective of living in the town now famous for the September 11 crash of United Airlines Flight 93. An open reading and reflections at the 9/11 Memorial Tree near the tennis courts will follow the service at 5:30 p.m.
Student Life encourages all community members to join and share their reflections.

“Our current student culture will always have threads of 9/11 through it,” Camerlengo said. “We’ll never know how students will have been shaped by that day.”