By Jeff Rankin, College Historian
When the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City 16 years ago today, it was a picture-perfect fall morning on the Monmouth College campus, similar to today. Little did anyone suspect that within hours the nation would soon be in turmoil.
As the events of Sept. 11, 2001, gradually fade into the distance, the trauma of that day on campus has also faded, with the only physical reminder a copper memorial plaque on the northwest edge of campus, donated by the Class of 2002.
Those students are now in their late 30s and many of the administrators and faculty who helped them come to terms with the tragedy are now retired. Two of those principals were the Rev. Dr. Kathleen Fannin, college chaplain, and Vice President for Student Life Jacquelyn Condon.
In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the attack, they were asked to recall the day.
“I was in Shopko picking up some stuff for Monmouth Christian Fellowship later that night,” said Fannin. “I remember that it was about 9:20 when people first started talking about it. When I got back to campus, it was ‘Where’ve you been? We need you to talk to the freshmen at 11.’”
Since it was a Tuesday during the fall semester, Monmouth College freshmen were scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. in the chapel for their weekly convocation. With very little time to prepare, Fannin gathered her thoughts for a 10-minute talk.
“What do you tell a bunch of brand new freshmen?” she said. “I had to let God take care of that. I remember telling them, ‘Not everybody acts like this. … The world isn’t that kind of place.’”
When President Kennedy was assassinated, Fannin was in high school, and she said the mood of 9/11 was very similar.
“Everybody was really subdued. Everywhere you went on campus that day, if a TV was available, it was on. Everyone was stunned.”
Condon remembered addressing the students along with then-vice president for academic affairs, Rajkumar Ambrose.
“The Auditorium was filled to capacity that morning with new students and professors who had gathered for the regular Tuesday convocation. The mood was so somber and we struggled to find words of comfort in the face of such a tragedy. Going forward over the days and weeks, the student affairs staff, as well as faculty and staff from across the college, worked to help the student body as best as we all could.”
This year’s freshman class was still in diapers when the 9/11 attacks occurred. While they likely don’t remember that day, its events affected the paths of their entire lives. They have grown up in a country monitored by Homeland Security and all the precautions attendant to protecting against terrorism — from body searches at airports to concrete barricades at national monuments. Just as growing up during the Great Depression caused their great-grandparents to develop a habit of thriftiness, they will likely take a more cautious approach to life than both their parents and grandparents.