Messages from the President

The 20th Anniversary of September 11, 2001

The 20th Anniversary of September 11, 2001

Dear UMPI Community,

On September 11, 2001, I was doing what a number of faculty and staff who are still here at UMPI, these twenty years later, were doing that very day—teaching class, at work in our offices and around campus, and otherwise doing the things we would normally do on a bright and clear September morning here in Aroostook County. Those of us who are old enough to remember the initial reports of the strikes on the Twin Towers, and the confusion and disbelief that came in response to those reports, can likely also recall very specific details: who we were talking to, what we were doing, how those around us first knew of what was to become a day that would see the loss of nearly 3,000 lives, but also leave lasting impacts on those who survived, those who provided succor and assistance, and those who strove to make sense of the events themselves.

For those who can remember, these events persist in our memories, as do those which followed. We witnessed a national and global response to these terrorist acts on an unprecedented level, as individuals and organizations and nations provided support for the families of the victims of 9-11 and worked toward ways to address and heal not only the pain experienced directly by these terrorist acts, but by people all around the world. Sadly, our nation also struggled with a rise in hate crimes and an escalating fear of nations of majority Muslim communities. These conflicting desires for healing and our simultaneous reaction to fear found voice on our college campuses, giving rise to debates and discussions — acts of unity and divisiveness — that we are still feeling today, two decades later.

Indeed, higher education itself changed that day. No one, not a teacher or student or staff member, at any institution, whether it be a large state university or a small private college, whether it be situated in a metropolitan area or in a rural county, could any longer imagine themselves as insulated from a larger world. I myself wrote a paper—I was then an Assistant Professor English, teaching composition and literature here at UMPI—urging that “only through a new way of thinking about our relationship with the rest of our world—and new way of thinking about the world—can we hope to avoid repeating a tragedy like that of September 11, 2001.”

As we have learned at UMPI—indeed, as we have learned at thousands of higher education institutions across the world—this means listening to and welcoming people unlike ourselves. It means condemning terrorism the and acts of radicalism that lead to violence. It simultaneously means embracing diversity and inclusion, respecting all members of our communities, in all of their difference. And it means hearing and valuing that difference, and ensuring that the resultant dialogue makes us a stronger university, a stronger community, and a stronger nation.

May we continue these efforts every day and thus help make this a better world for all of us.