Five years ago on Monday, tragedy struck. Today, the Orient asks members of the Bowdoin community to share how 9/11 affected their lives — in their own words.
A state trooper
Randy Nichols: On the case in South Portland
The really interesting thing about this for me is that my office was located in South Portland, on the Maine turnpike, right next to the Portland Jetport. And, directly across the turnpike from my office where our troop headquarters was there was the Comfort Inn where Muhammad Atta stayed the night before he then drove with his companions, with his cohorts, to the jetport for the flight. So if you looked out of my office, I had a big picture window, it was an old building, and if you looked out my office I could look virtually right into the room where Muhammad Atta was staying the night before, which was interesting.
It was interesting that he was driving the roads right near us. He could've been stopped by one of my troopers. Any number of things could have happened. If you think of all the things that might have happened to prevent what occurred. It could have been something as simple as a traffic stop, where an officer senses something is wrong, starts looking into it, starts to find something in the car that's suspicious. An officer could have gotten killed on one of those stops. But, it was very interesting, and I remember the video tape footage that came out from the Portland Jetport that was on all the news broadcasts, showing Atta and his cohorts actually going in through the line to board the plane. It was very famous footage that was released by the Portland Police Department. And the car that they used was parked at the Portland Jetport parking garage. We had to conduct a search for that vehicle. We found it, and we towed it up to the crime lab up in Augusta for processing.
So, it was interesting how it all came to be, and it was all very close to home for me and my troop because it happened virtually just across the street. Or one of the key elements of this day occurred right there under our noses basically, but how were we to know?
Randy Nichols is Bowdoin's director of safety and security. He spent 27 years as a trooper with the Maine State Police.
A first-year student
Adam Baber '05: Saw the battle lines drawn
In many ways I think it brought out some of the best and some of the worst in higher education in general. It brought out the best because you saw people from all different backgrounds come together to talk and think about what had happened...As a freshman it was pretty impressive to see the administration come together. Remember, it was Barry Mills's first year as president as well, so he was very new. This was a challenge to any sort of institutional leader in the country at this point. I remember he was very eloquent at the meeting they had that Tuesday afternoon, and keeping the campus updated about stuff that the campus was doing. So that's the good part. The bad part is soon you saw the politicization of what had happened. Once the initial shock wore off, you started to see people asking, "Why did this happen," "What prompted this," "How should we respond," and immediately you saw the battle lines drawn, in classes, in debates...I think college campuses, and Bowdoin is no exception, are politicized to extreme on both right and left. 9/11 did not help that situation. Then what ended up happening for the people in my class, 2005, that is sort of colored in the next for years because we went from 9/11 to Afghanistan and then fairly quickly into Iraq. So, the military aspect of what 9/11 brought around really colored campus politics and I think made the 2004 elections very close and very heated. It was a very exciting time. It was a great time to be on campus, it was a great time to work with the newspaper because there was no shortage of material, but at the same time, you saw people on both sides of the political spectrum try to sort of take advantage of the political climate and say some things that probably should not have been said.
Being a freshman, obviously, in a totally new environment with totally new people, totally new routine; you are struggling on a day to day basis, some students to a bigger extent than others, but having that happen and really throw not only your little world out of whack, but the whole world out of whack for a little while was pretty intense. I know some students had a fairly difficult time with it... It sets the class of 2005, no matter where the graduated from, apart in that sense. Anyone starting anything new in September 2001 had sort of a double burden. It's memorable, in sort of a dark sense I think.
Adam Baber '05 was co-editor-in-chief of the Orient during the 2004-2005 academic year.
A student from Bangladesh
Arnab Quadry '09: Saw peers dismiss U.S. study
I think there was more sympathy for the U.S. at that point than I can remember at any other point. I mean obviously, I haven't been in the world forever, but in my lifetime, yeah definitely—which is very weird thinking about it right now when everyone is mad at the U.S. for a variety of reasons. At that time it was just like, everyone was like "Oh my God. How did that happen?"
People's perception of the United States I don't think really changed that much, except the fact that everyone was a little bit scared that if this could happen to the United States, what else could happen?...
The only thing that did change, I think, is that it became harder to go the U.S...If I had been a graduating senior in 2001, I probably would not have been able to come to Bowdoin, which is understandable, but at the same time it is tragic. A lot of people who normally could have come here to study could not do so because the U.S. embassy back home was really, really strict about that kind of thing. One of those things though, is that affected a lot of people who went to study in a lot of places that had not been popular before like Canada, and then England or Australia...A lot of people, like the brightest people, would go to the U.S., but after that they decided on different destinations...I think that today hasn't changed a lot. People do go to the U.S. a little bit more, but it's still not like pre-9/11 standards even now. All these people found out that, for example, school in Canada is much cheaper than school in the U.S. ...No one would think about going there, except now a lot of people do, just because that started up a trend.
Arnab Quadry '09 is from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
An aide on Capitol Hill
Pat Collins: Hears public concern
It's really apparent in D.C. that security and security precautions have become an everyday part of life for Capitol Hill staffers, and I think generally a lot of people around the city, even the private sector, have to kind of bulk up their safety precautions...The Capitol Hill police are kind of constantly training and retraining us for potential security issues...I think twice since I've been here we've trained on evacuation hoods that would be used in case of chemical or biological issues arising in the Senate building itself. It is very much part of life in D.C.
I think one of the big things, one of the conflicting concerns that we see constituents trying to work the right balance between privacy and personal freedoms versus national security. These are sort of the day-to-day concerns that people have...We received a lot of mail on, for instance, the NSA wiretapping and data collection scandal when it broke. I think that issue kind of served to bring out the issue of privacy and how far our government should be allowed to reach the private lives of citizens in the effort to protect us at home and abroad in terms of terrorist threats. So, I think that's one issue of where the balance lies.
A lot of people, I think, are much more concerned, and I think people are increasingly more informed about politics in the Middle East and our presence there. Part of that has to do with the war in Iraq...There are a lot more people out there voicing their concerns with a better understanding of these issues than probably anyone had before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Before, there was a region in the world that people didn't really know much about, and frankly, care much about, I think, until a bunch of guys crashed some buildings.
Alum Pat Collins is a staff assistant to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
A venture capitalist
Karen Mills: Sees change in travel and investment
I have a venture capitalist firm in New York, so I've been commuting every week, this is my sixth year. This actually had a pretty profound change, because I used to get to the airport at the very last minute, and I used to feel if I wasn't the last person on the plane that I had wasted some time. And this really forced me to get to the airport at least a full hour in advance of flight time. Actually, this has proven to be pretty productive because it takes all the stress out of traveling. You know you aren't going to miss the plane because you've left enough time. And, it turns out that between having a Blackberry and a cell phone, you can sit quite comfortably in the jetport or LaGuardia or in any airport and be pretty completely connected to work. So, it turns out that it actually gives me a lot of work time and makes traveling a lot less stressful in a way that I never would have chosen, to be at the airport an extra hour early, but now I am.
...Well, we did move our offices in New York just after that, and I will tell you, we did choose a new location that was on the third floor, and that one of the reasons that we liked the third floor did have to do with reflecting back a few months on September 11. In terms of work, the investment climate is really pretty much recovered. Airlines had a huge loss, but there hasn't been anything that we've seen that has really been affected. I think that industries that were more home based , for a while had more business.
Karen Gordon Mills is a managing director of Solera Capital, LLC, in New York City.
An intern in D.C.
Armand Gottlieb '07: Heard immigration worry
I think a lot of the immigration politics now have a lot to do with terrorism and 9/11. One thing that happened a lot was people would send bricks to the office because they wanted us to build a wall between the United States and Mexico...
I think September 11, is one thing that really made you start thinking about how we want to control our borders. I don't think we'd really thought about that much whether our borders, our border patrols, our border security is a real threat to our own safety. People think, you know, that people are coming in maybe is hurting our economy if they are working on welfare or whatever. People have economic concerns about it, but I think that ever since 9/11 people have been thinking of it as a safety issue.
I think people want to know more about why people are coming into our country. People are more concerned about people coming in from Canada and Mexico... It is hard to say whether it is justified or not. People are more concerned about how and why people are coming into our country.
Armand Gottlieb '07 spent a month interning for Rep. Tom Lantos, D-California.
A Long Island resident
Jackie Li '09: Felt a changed skyline, city
I was home actually by myself, which was terrifying because my mom works in a hospital, and when something like that happens the hospital goes in lock-down, so she wasn't allowed to come home. So, she was stuck there. My dad was working that week in and out of New York City, so I didn't know if he was there or not. So, I was by myself, I hadn't heard from anyone, I was terrified...
Obviously I didn't go into the city for awhile after that. My parents, even after it was safe to go in, my parents didn't obviously want me to, they were kind of strict about that. But, when I did finally go, it was so weird. Just think, obviously just the skyline is just—it's more than just seeing, it's the feeling that you see. It's a huge something missing, and not just visually something missing, but, oh my God, you know? ...When you pass by ground zero you just don't know what to say.
Definitely, socially, I feel like in my high school there was just prejudice, even. There's a 7-11 right near our high school, and the people that work there are predominately Arab, and there was a lot of harassment and that kind of thing, and obviously that really upset me.
Things changed in every way possible, in every way you can imagine.
Jackie Li '09 is from Long Island, New York.