Release Date: 
Friday, September 10, 2021

20 years after 9/11: bringing out the best in each other

granite carving for 9/11 living memorial

This message is from President Kavalhuna to the College community.

Dear Students and Colleagues,

This Saturday marks 20 years since terrorists hijacked passenger airplanes and used them to attack America on September 11, 2001. Since then, an entire generation has grown up hearing us talk about this terrible event.

I remember that day very clearly, and I suspect many of you do too.

That morning, I was scheduled to begin an on-call period in my new career as an airline pilot. You can imagine how shocking it was to see passenger jets – my new livelihood – used as weapons to harm civilians and cities. This was a terrible time for all of us. Some of you may have lost family or friends that day. I remain deeply saddened by your loss.

As a pilot, I loved flying, and I probably always will. But I had a decision to make after I got laid off that fall 20 years ago. I decided to change careers. And I went back to school.

A lot of us face crossroads like that. Something completely changes the path in front of us. And we have to take a different path. None of us could have been prepared for the shock and grief of September 11, or the disruption to our lives and our country.

It is important for us to pause and think about what has happened since September 11, 2001.

After the attacks on our country, we were in awe of the first responders. They inspired us with their courage and determination in the face of incredible difficulties. For some of us, this was the first glimmer of hope we could find through our astonished grief. These men and women represented the best of us. And we are still grateful to them today, much like the first responders and frontline workers of the current pandemic.

After September 11, Americans came together to think of ourselves as a diverse nation of patriots. That spirit of working together for the common good still prevails. We see it in our own community here in southeast Michigan – one of the most diverse communities in our region.

We saw that spirit when frontline workers helped others get groceries, transportation, and healthcare in the midst of a pandemic.

We saw it when Dearborn and Dearborn Heights residents, and members of our College, pitched in to help neighbors whose homes were flooded after recent rainstorms.

We saw it when teachers and administrators come back to schools after a year or more of quarantining.

We saw it when our own College converted nearly all its classes from on-ground to online in just two weeks. And we learned how to provide all our student services online, too.

All of these actions, and many more like them, are evidence of the good that can come from communities pulling together during difficult times.

Each of you is an important part of this College community. Your decisions about whether to reach out with a helping hand will make all the difference in the success of others.

After 9/11, we asked ourselves what kind of world we wanted to create. We still ask that question. We always want to work toward a better world. In fact, we must do this work. This College stands on the promise that every student – at any age, from any background, with any dream – can succeed and have a better life through public education.

Despite the difficulties around us, we are moving forward as a team. We are tackling uncertainties with a firm belief that—together—we will get to a better tomorrow.

I deeply believe in our mission to change lives, every day, through access to a quality education. I have seen this happen, countless times, as I hear your stories. And we are creating more of these success stories, because of your teamwork and our students’ dedication.

Let us look for the best in ourselves, and work to bring out the best in each other. Let us honor the sacrifices our fellow citizens made on September 11 and in the years afterward. When we fail, we will apologize and ask for help to do better. When we disagree, we can do so with respect. Every act of kindness matters, online or on campus.

If we continue to build on our teamwork and our welcoming community, we will make our College more inclusive and connected.

I wish you a successful and productive Fall semester. If I can support you in any way, reach out to me. I am here to support you!

Russ Kavalhuna