Journal Archive > 2001 > October

Now, we have been tested

The tragic events of September 11 shook the Tufts community and have changed college life more than any single incident in recent history. Glued to the television, students quickly realized that the utopian bubble of college had been permanently pierced. Nearly everyone was affected on a personal level.

In an age where we have become so dependent on instantaneous communication, the initial reaction of most students was panic and frustration as they attempted to contact friends, relatives and parents who were in Manhattan at the time. Walking around campus that Tuesday was the worst day of my Tufts career. Looking at the expressions on my peers' faces—the utter sadness, fear and terror—was devastating.

After most students' initial fears were quelled, the campus mobilized in an attempt to help the victims and to provide a support network for each other. Blood drives were organized instantly. Classrooms were transformed into discussion groups so that students could begin to sort through their personal feelings, discuss media coverage and debate about potential military action.

The mood remained somber and edgy for the remainder of the week as investigations pointed toward Boston and Logan Airport as instrumental pieces of the terrorists' puzzle.

As most students' lives started to return to normal, I realized that a close friend of mine was still on the list of people missing at the World Trade Center. As each hour passed, my optimism started to crumble, and when we learned that he had been on the 104th floor of the second WTC tower at the time of the attack, despair crashed in on me.

Unable to focus on my schoolwork, looking for answers and hope on the television and waiting for the phone to ring, I decided that I needed to go home. Like many of my fellow students, a trip home offered a much-needed solace and provided a time to reconnect with family.

Unfortunately, no news became bad news, and the search for our friend Deeg proved futile. He had been my sister's boyfriend for four years back in high school. Everyone who knew him loved him. To me, he was like the older brother I never had. The saddest part was that he was only 22 and had been working in the WTC for two weeks.

The majority of the issues in my life prior to September 11 seemed trivial in retrospect.

When I returned to school the following week, everything appeared slightly different, as if I were viewing life through a tinted lens. There are so many things that we take for granted living in a city like Boston, and the recent threat of potential terrorist activity downtown alarmed many students enough that they remained at home on Saturday night.

Yet the events of September 11 seem to have brought out a softer side in many Bostonians. One of the first things I noticed was that drivers were finally friendly, and instead of leaning on horns and swearing, drivers now politely wave pedestrians to walk ahead of them. At a Red Sox game I noticed that the incessant "Yankees Suck" cheers were replaced by the patriotic "USA" chant. Instead of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," we sang "America the Beautiful" during the seventh inning stretch.

I feel that for the first time, our generation has witnessed a unifying event. Our parents might talk about Vietnam or Woodstock as key events, but for me, the most notable events before September 11 were the O.J. Simpson trial and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Older generations have always looked upon us with a condescending eye, claiming that we are apathetic, that we have no values. This is far from true. Until September 11, we had not been tested. We have known nothing but peace, prosperity, minivans and Dave Matthews concerts. That's over now.

As tragic and catastrophic as the events of September 11 have been, I believe that it will give my generation a chance to move forward and discover who we are as adults, as inheritors of this planet, never forgetting, of course, those we lost.

Neil Taylor is a senior majoring in psychology.