Ten years ago, on a clear and beautiful sunny September day, thousands of students, faculty and staff were present at Montclair State University, attending classes and working. That day was shattered suddenly when a few miles away a sequence of explosions brought the World Trade Centers down. Our campus community, like so many communities in New Jersey, was deeply affected by that event. Family members, friends and neighbors died that day. Anxiety was great as students and employees tried to reach people to find out if they were safe. Hearts were broken as cars parked at New Jersey train stations in the morning remained there in evening, their drivers never to return to claim them. Everybody wanted to do something to help as the impact of this tragedy became apparent over the succeeding hours and then days and weeks.
Over the years since September 11, 2001, we have seen a succession of students enter the University who come with this event as part of their personal history. First came the students who were in high school in 2001, and then came those who were in elementary school. These students were changed by the experiences associated with that day and its aftermath. They were more focused on international issues, they were more openly patriotic, they were more serious about their goals in life, and they were more intent on staying closer to home and in closer touch with the people who were important to them in their lives.
Back in September of 2001, in writing to the campus community about what our response should be to these terrible events, I said that it was critical for us to do everything we could to help our students continue their education and to prepare themselves to shape a world in which such things to do not happen. I said then and I still believe that the tragic events of September 11 were the product of profound hatred and ignorance. When people do not know each other or understand each other, a fertile ground exists for the breeding of hatred. The only effective antidote to hate is knowledge, understanding, and a commitment to a common humanity.
Ten years later, as the nation continues to attend to issues of how to make the United States safe from terrorism, we must not forget that the knowledge and understanding that we achieve through education is the most powerful weapon we have to combat the ignorance and hatred that creates the kind of tragedy that September 11 represented.
For those among you who still mourn those you lost, I offer the comfort of a University community that cares about you. For all of us, I offer the hope we see in a generation of students who will take up the difficult challenge of forging a better world.