Faculty Members Reflect on Tragedy

At approximately 8:48 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, Keith Simmonds , Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was watching Bryant Gumbel on “the Today Show.”

Suddenly, Gumbel’s background turned into footage of a plane flying into a building, and then the video took over the entire screen. Moments later, it was announced to him and the world that two planes had flown into the World Trade Center had been attacked.

Simmonds said he would never forget the moment that changed his life and his country. He silently watched as fire and smoke poured out of the North tower. Less than 20 minutes later, the South tower was also hit, and he realized the collisions weren’t an accident.

“I felt that this was really going to mean war of some kind once it was clear that they knew who did it,” Simmonds said. “It struck me as an act of war against the United States from some foreign country.”

National security, he said, was always an eminent threat in the U.S. But he could not remember a time when the threat did not come from a foreign country, but from a group or an entity. According to Simmonds, that day changed the lives and mindsets of all Americans. The changes are evident even on FAMU’s campus ten years later, he said.

Academic disciplines have evolved out of Sept. 11, Simmonds said, focusing strictly on national security and international conflict studies. Simmonds is also Director of the Center for Global Security and International Affairs at FAMU, the program focuses on training minority students for careers in global security and international affairs. The program, he said, is a direct result of Sept. 11 and America’s subsequent heightened interest in national security.

“The psychology is different. Each and every one of us has that sense of possibility that we could be attacked and not even know who did it,” Simmonds said. “There’s a continual uneasiness about our own safety.”

David Jackson, chairman of the Department of History and Political Science, however, opined the largest impact from Sept. 11 is visible in the nation’s economy. The attacks were a catalyst for an expensive war, helping place America into an ongoing recession, he said. Jackson compared the attacks to the attacks on Pearl Harbor by Japan, one of the catalysts that pushed the US. into World War II.

“If the politicians in this country don’t come together and find meaningful solutions to the economic crisis in the nation, then Osama Bin Laden will win,” Jackson said.

Like Pearl Harbor, the attacks took place on American territory, which Jackson said was the most unsettling idea about the attack.

“Most times we’re going to the fight; the fight isn’t taking place on our soil,” Jackson said. “We underestimated what people can do.”

The black community within the U.S. particularly felt the impact from Sept. 11, he said, with a sense of ironic relief.

“I can remember people saying they felt like they were no longer targets. People were joking that when they went to stores, for the first time, they weren’t being followed,” Jackson said. “I’m sure they were being facetious, but there was a feeling that, for the first time, we’re in the same boat together and are all Americans. ”