President Brown on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11


FIT President Joyce F. Brown has issued comments about September 11. Her statement reads as follows:

September 10, 2021

To the FIT Community,

Over the next days and weeks, we will see and hear an outpouring of commentary—all reflecting on 9/11—its history, its local and global aftermath, its symbolism, its meaning. It is 20 years, after all, and its psychological and geopolitical impact seems never-ending.

Many of today’s FIT community—students especially—were toddlers in 2001, or perhaps not yet born. But they grew up in the shadow of the tragedy. They, like the rest of us, may have lost family or family friends in the Twin Towers rubble and may have been affected by our collective longing to understand the unfathomable event that had transpired.

What I remember most poignantly was the way the country was able to forget the differences among us—differences in race, ethnicity, nationality and religion, in order to forge bonds in a common cause.  At that moment, as newly vulnerable as we were, we appeared strengthened in our determination not to succumb to the kind of fear and panic that breeds blame and bigotry. It appears now that we were, at the very least, naïve.

As we know too well, over the past very eventful and clamorous two decades we became a nation divided, battling over values, ethics and the very meaning of democracy. Over time, our hope that we could count on that early collective spirit of cooperation and compassion dissipated, leading, too often, to violence and suspicion, conspiracy theories and the kind of domestic terrorism that threatens the core of our democracy. Twenty years later, we are still reeling.

I recognize that these words sound pessimistic. However, I also recognize that the broad sweep of history is made up not only of tyranny, injustice, and cruelty, but also of compassion and courage, kindness and cooperation. And I believe that when we choose to embrace those qualities—there is reason for hope

Perhaps you are familiar with the “Survivor Tree”—the broken, blackened stump with twisted roots now thriving where it fell, 20 years ago, in the wreckage of the Twin Towers. Removed by rescue workers to a nursery in the Bronx, it slowly regained its health and was replanted in 2011 in the soil where it nearly died. If you look at it today, you will see its wounds clearly embedded in its stump—but you will also see an abundance of smooth leafy branches that extend skyward from that stump, a flourishing bower of resilience and renewal. As we commemorate this day, I hope that each of us can take the spirit that the Survivor Tree represents, and help to rekindle the cooperation and compassion that so characterized the days following 9/11, and create a new national narrative going forward, one of strength, unity, and hope.

Dr. Joyce F. Brown

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