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Remembering 9/11

Note: I’m definitely not a writer in any way, shape or form. I’m not even sure if this type of material is appropriate for the Harbus. I’m not looking for pity or sympathy. It’s just something that I felt the need to share because of how passionate I feel about it. And there are so many people here that feel the same that I just needed to express my thoughts.

Dear Editor:

The second anniversary of 9/11 this past week brought with it a rush of mixed feelings. I was one of the lucky ones on that tragic day two years ago. I was walking through the ground floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on my way to work in the World Financial Center when the first plane struck the North Tower. For some reason, I was able to escape and make it out safely while so many others were not so fortunate.
The memories of that day are etched in my mind – the debris falling from the sky and at my feet, the smell of burning steel in the air, the sting of smoke in my eyes – but most of all – the image of countless people holding hands and jumping from the unimaginable destruction in the towers 100 floors above.

As the anniversary neared, I started searching for how HBS was going to commemorate this day. Finally, myHBS noted that the school would honor 9/11 by a tolling of the bells at 8:45 am followed by a moment of silence and there would be corresponding updates to the RC schedule on the Course Platform. I kept looking for updates, but none came. When I went to class that day, the professor started the discussion on the day’s case at 8:40 am, we paused for a moment of silence at 8:45 am and resumed class at 8:46 am (we couldn’t hear the tolling of the bells from the basement of Aldrich). As tears welled in my eyes, I was completely shocked and dismayed that this was what HBS considered an update to the RC schedule. One minute from class time to remember the almost 3,000 people that died. Classes couldn’t start 10 minutes late and students weren’t given an opportunity to share their stories when so many of us have one. The rest of the day, both in class and around campus, I searched for signs that this day was somehow different from the rest. But I couldn’t find one – everything was business as usual. So instead, I went back to my apartment and watched coverage of the events on television and spent time talking with whom I shared September 11, 2001.

Understandably, people grieve, remember and reflect in different ways and I’m not advocating that people need to commemorate the events the same way I do. The part that upsets me was that there was no way to do it publicly or as a community here. So many others felt the same way I did, but there was no way to express that feeling to the community. No pause to watch the ceremonies on television, no discussion in class, no congregation on the lawn, nothing. For a place that strives to make its students into the leaders of tomorrow, why isn’t there a greater emphasis on remembering the worst event that many of us have lived through? To me, this is disrespectful to the people who were at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon on 9/11, to the people who knew people who died and to the people who just wanted to commemorate the lives of people who died defending the liberties that we enjoy today. I understand that the HBS campus isn’t in New York or Washington D.C. or Shanksville, Pennsylvania and maybe I shouldn’t try to treat it as such, but the Boston community also lost many people that day. On the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks, I wanted to be anywhere but here – but most of all – in New York, or in my hometown of Middletown, NJ (which lost 40 people on 9/11 and dedicated a memorial to the victims on that day); somewhere where I felt that the day would be given justice. And I’m completely dismayed and distraught that I feel that couldn’t happen here. All I know is that for me and so many others, as each anniversary passes, the pain gets a little less but the memories never disappear. And HBS should remember that and treat it as such.

Seema Pandya
spandya@mba2005.hbs.edu
Section B

September 8, 2003
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