We were asked to be “around and helpful” to students that day. So, as Chris Conzen wrote, it was time to get to work. The resident directors were in the residence halls and my student involvement colleagues and student affairs staff were in the cafeterias and in the campus center. We were there, present, talking and connecting with some students we knew and others we didn’t. Nobody told us what to do specifically or how long to do it for, but it just happened. I remember looking at the clock and seeing that it was time to leave work for the day. Do you leave? Stay? Shouldn’t there be some direction? We were doing what comes naturally to student affairs professionals. No theory, vector, or CAS standard had to be consulted to know what to do that day.
That day was so profound, but the time on campus afterward was just as profound for me. My office had our Student Involvement Fair scheduled for 9/12. Should I keep the event? Cancel it? We ended up keeping the event because we knew the community needed to gather that day. It was, as expected, nothing remotely focused on involvement in student organizations. It ended up, however, being squarely illustrative of the power that student groups affiliations have to unify, comfort and empower a community.
Much of my time in the two weeks following 9-11 was spent working with groups to organize fundraisers and awareness campaigns. I vividly remember a meeting with student leaders from a range of organizations who “just wanted to do something.” I knew our university was going to do something, but it wasn’t evolving fast enough for motivated students who wanted to help. It was also the beginning of the semester and filled with the usual opening craziness.
We spent a serious amount of time working on a number of projects from that point on and it was a great lesson to me in not just the value of the products of our work but the process as well. Helping students to harness their grief and disbelief over the events toward some productive and helpful end still remains one of the most rewarding memories of my career. Those ribbon campaigns were a grieving process for the community and I wouldn’t have changed a minute of how I spent my time. It helped them and it helped me.
My most powerful memories related to 9-11-01 will always be of what an empowering and supportive environment a college campus can be when a community needs to pull together.
College campuses are really, truly, special places,
Later on, I would discover that a grade school friend had perished when one of the towers fell. Allison, if there are blogs in the great beyond, you will never be forgotten.
Cindy Kane is the Director of Student Involvement and Leadership at Bridgewater State University.