Daily Egyptian

SIU remembers 9/11, seventeen years later

By Kallie Cox and Austin Phelps, Staff Reporters

Seventeen years have passed since Sept. 11, 2001, and the effects from it are still being felt at SIU.

“I can just remember driving up my drive and thinking nothing’s ever going to be the same again,” Cherie Watson, an Outreach and Instruction Librarian at Morris Library, said.

Watson said the attack left her in a state of shock, and she had difficulty registering what had happened.

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“I think at first I was shocked,” Anna Xiong, a government information librarian, said. “After […] I watched the news report, I started to feel scared, and more and more scared.”

Even though 17 years have passed, remembering 9/11 still brings up emotions, Xiong said.

“I think because many years passed it’s less fear, but it still feels sad,” Xiong said. “So many people lost their lives no matter if they worked in those buildings and got killed immediately, or their family members, or those people who tried to rescue them and sacrificed.”

Paul Copeland, coordinator for Veterans Services at SIU, was assigned to the Space Warfare Center, Schriever Air Force Base at the time of 9/11. He said after the attack all US military installations were directed to implement the highest possible security measures.

“My wife and I had just adopted two children in April 2001,” Copeland said. “My extended family for the first several years after 9/11 would ask with concern if I thought I might get deployed.”

Copeland said his family’s concern over his possible deployment was not unique, and every military family shares these concerns about how to deal with absence and the possibility of the deployed military member becoming a casualty.

“The initial conventional wisdom was it must have been some form of accident, but my suspicion was that something bigger was going on,” Copeland said. “I immediately got out of the car, into the headquarters building and through what was then a fairly simple security procedure, showing appropriate ID card.”

Charles Munson, a staff attorney at the Student’s Legal Assistance office, said 9/11 increased his view on the hostility that was sometimes shown to western civilization.

At the time of 9/11, Munson had been in the National Guard for six years. He said he’d been deployed to a couple of other regions before 9/11 as well.

“I knew that I would probably be deployed,” Munson said. “So there was an element of apprehension regarding that, there was bewilderment, anxiety, anger.”

Jeff Williams, station manager for WSIU public radio, was on air when the attacks occurred.

Williams said he halted his local newscast and began reporting on the attack.

“We were watching it [in] real time and we could see exactly what had been going on,” Williams said. “NPR had not yet gone to breaking news coverage at that time so I dumped my local newscast and literally just started doing a play-by-play of what I was watching on the ABC news feed.”

Williams said everyone in the country and in southern Illinois was affected by the events that happened on 9/11.

“It was something that I will never forget and hopefully will never have to cover again,” Williams said.

After 9/11, all air traffic was halted, except air force jets that patrolled highly populated areas, Walter Ray, a political papers archivist, said.

“They would have air force patrols so we could hear those air force patrols just kind of like big air force jets just circling,” Ray said. “I could hear that and it was kind of spooky.”

Mike Robertson, associate professor and safety officer for aviation management and flight, said there was an increased awareness when it came to airport security after 9/11.

“People were much more aware of people just coming onto the airfield,” Robertson said.  “Whereas before, if somebody was walking around the ramp maybe nobody would really say anything.”  

Robertson said post-9/11, a perimeter fence was put up around the airport as well as more signs. He said today, people deemed suspicious at the airport are questioned.

“If somebody is walking around the ramp that doesn’t look familiar, they’ll basically go up and say ‘hey can I help you, where is it that you need to go?’” Robertson said. “I’d say overall it’s a general sense of security awareness.”

Robertson said those working at the SIU Aviation Department must undergo TSA training each year. In this training they address security issues from the past year as well as potential threats.

“Where we see the biggest impact is not just at the airport, but especially how international students are approved to flight train,” Robertson said. “It takes quite a lot of hoops to jump through for that to occur.”

Watson said after the attack she witnessed a rise of an intense form of patriotism that sometimes did not reflect well on the United States.

“I had friends who were attacked because they looked like they might be middle eastern,” Watson said. “I think there have been some very unfortunate consequences as a result of the way our country processed that happening on our soil.”

Watson said there was a lot of pain in the country and that she tried to balance the pain with the experience of others all over the world.

The attack was very much associated with Muslims, Watson said. She said it contributed to a lot of cultural misunderstanding because there are a billion Muslims and Americans shouldn’t paint them broadly.

Williams said as a body, media was guilty to some degree of perpetuating the stigma against middle eastern people.

“As a society, we typically tend to look for those that are responsible,” Williams said. “We want to place blame and lay blame on someone or some group of individuals that we are perceived [sic] to have done us wrong.”

Williams said 9/11 caused students to be suspicious of anyone who did not look like them.

“For many years [the Carbondale community has] always enjoyed a relatively open and free and diverse exchange,” Williams said. “There was a period of time after 9/11 where that wasn’t happening and that was unfortunate.”

Williams said the university did all it could to prevent discord, but various forms of bullying and graffiti occurred within the community.

“It was not necessarily on campus,” Williams said. “There were incidents [of] graffiti and forms of bullying and just skepticism towards anyone that appeared to be of middle eastern descent.”

Williams said it was a tense time in the region, and nation. He said there was a lot of looking in the mirror as a nation and community and seeing what was reflected back, as well as a lot of looking over our shoulders.

Staff reporter Kallie Cox can be reached at kcox@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @KallieC45439038.

Staff reporter Austin Phelps can be reached at aphelps@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @austinphelps96.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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