Remembering September 11, 2001: Gretchel Hathaway

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By Gretchel Hathaway

Most of the vice presidents and the college president were away from campus at a meeting in Boston. At the time, I was the Director of Community Outreach, so I was in the Kenney Community Center but without a TV. I received a frantic call from New York City relatives about the incident, and that my niece was in a daycare near the site but we couldn’t find her.

I hurriedly went to Reamer Campus Center to find a TV. The campus center was quiet, but you could feel the anxiety and emotions. Students were gathering around the few available public TVs expressing shock, some wondering about their NYC relatives. Many wanted to go home to NYC. Viki Brooks, Matt Milless, Christie Sorum and I met quickly to go over what to do. We decided to cancel afternoon classes. We wanted students to get together as a community, help each other, console each other.

Matt set up a TV viewing in large areas such as Old Chapel, and we provided snacks since no one seemed to be in the mood to eat a meal. Many students stayed in the comfort of their residence halls among their close friends. Students questioned whether they should go home. We encouraged them to stay on campus. Matt and Viki handled the emotional impact, consoling and directing students, especially since phone lines were jammed and students couldn’t reach family. ‘All hands on deck’ was the feeling of the administrators. We were going to help keep the calm on campus while allowing students to express their feelings. The shock was felt by many.

In the days after, I worked with faculty who wanted advice on how to handle class discussions on the topic and we heard of the names of relatives, and alums of our Union community who were victims. Viki and Matt focused on making sure all students still felt safe on campus. We provided programs to educate our community about different religions and offered open microphone sessions to allow all voices to be heard. Four hours after the initial strikes, we finally found my niece, who had been quickly taken away from the danger by a very smart parent but with phone lines down, she had difficulty reaching our family. These relatives moved in with us for a few days of respite since they were not allowed back into their apartment for a number of weeks.

Gretchel Hathaway, Senior Director of Campus Diversity and Affirmative Action

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