Letters from alumni about September 11, 2001
April 22, 2002
The $1 million
Princeton donated to
four programs in response to September 11 are very worthy causes.
But, that begs the question. The money Princeton receives from many sources,
I strongly doubt, was ever intended to go to the John Jay College of Criminal
Justice for scholarships or for the other three programs. If the university
wanted to encourage others to make these donations that is commendable,
but I believe that the trustees overstepped their authority and responsibility
when they chose to use university funds, unless specifically directed
by a donor, to go to any source or for any purpose other than for the
university itself. The rationalization and justification for this largesse
is a real stretch.
To whom at Princeton
do the other needy outreach programs apply for grants? Is there a box
one can check on annual giving to direct specific amounts to humanitarian
projects endorsed by the administration? One might be a cap on tuition,
fees, room and board as the university fiduciaries of other people's money
have such an excess amount as to make large charitable donations to meaningful
causes in New York City. We can jump start next year's annual giving campaign
with checks made payable directly to Arts Alive or John Jay College and
save Princeton the expense of bookkeeping. Come to think of it that is
a good idea. John Jay could sure use the money more than Princeton.
Laurence C. Day
December 20, 2001
November 26, 2001
I'd like to echo my classmate Mike D'Emilio's thoughtful
letter about the protesters (November 21).
November 24, 2001
I was so moved by the "Hail and Farewell" article in the November 7 issue (cover story). Reading the tender and loving tributes to the 13 alumni whose lives were sacrificed in the slaughter of September 11 was indeed touching. The friends and relatives who wrote of their memories were all so expressive and compassionate.
I was particularly touched by the tribute to Christopher D. Mello 98, written by his classmate and beloved friend, Chris Halpin 98, In reading it, I almost felt as if I had known Chris Mello, but in the life of a dear friend of mine from the past. Such close friends as these two young men were is indeed a privilege that does not happen very often in a lifetime. To have lost a treasured friend at such a young age in a mindless tragedy is impossible to comprehend. But Halpin's memory of Mello is a tearful, and yet totally loving tribute. As he wrote, it is one thing to lose the talents and potential of a friend, but "What is harder but more important to understand is what it means to have lost his personality." That certainly can never be measured like you can measure accomplishments, reputation, awards and careers.
Chris Mello must have been a very special human being. I wish to acknowledge those who wrote so lovingly of the memories of their beloved ones in the article, and thank them for letting us share such intimate and lasting relationships.
Larry Ackard 41
Los Angeles, Calif.
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November 19, 2001
The personal remembrances from your last issue of the alumni victims of the September 11 tragedy were well-done, thoughtful, and poignant. That was the right thing to do to properly acknowledge each of these persons, and the loved ones that they leave behind. It was the page immediately following that feature that seemed so thoughtlessly out of place. The sports headline on the very next page, in large boldfaced type, "Ghosts of losses past haunt Tigers" might have been better placed elsewhere within that issue's content. The juxtaposition was undoubtedly inadvertent. But, as it was, the predictable sports metaphors of death and fighting only seemed very sadly out of place.
Raphael "Rocky" Semmes '79
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November 19, 2001
I never write letters to alumni magazines, but I feel compelled to make an exception in response to the compassionate, thoughtful letter from Robert B. Comizzoli *67 p'92 (Letters, November 7) to the families of those who died on September 11. I have sent copies to friends and former colleagues who were working in the World Financial Center across the street from Ground Zero, many of whom lost friends or neighbors to the terrorist attack. I even sent it to a close friend in Virginia who was unaffected by September 11, but who lost her husband earlier this year and is now raising two young boys alone. I would like to use your pages to express my gratitude to Mr. Comizzoli for sharing his feelings and experiences stemming from the loss of his own father many years ago. In particular, I want to thank him for his moving words in the closing paragraph, where he correctly identifies the love of one's children as being the one thing that keeps a surviving parent going a love that will be returned many fold as those children grow up and realize how bravely their mother (or father) continued struggling against all the odds to give them a safe and happy life. It is people like Mr. Comizzoli and his mother, whose love for her son shines through every line of his letter who keep our optimism and faith in humanity alive.
Lisa M. Skoog de Lamas *85
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November 18, 2001
Thank you for bringing us insight into the lives of the 13 men and women, through the written words of their best friends (cover story, November 7). For all of us who lost classmates, family and friends on September 11, that edition of PAW offers an enduring memory of those who died, and is a statement of endurance for those who lived. We are all in the nation's service now.
Lee McGuire '98
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I experienced the magnitude of the tremendous loss of life in another way. I had just left a memorial service held in the Princeton University Chapel for all of those victims of the terrorist strikes. It was a sad and solemn service, and after leaving the chapel, I wandered over to Nassau Hall and entered the Faculty Room, where our present faculty holds it meetings. The same room where the Continental Congress met from July until November 1783 after it moved from Philadelphia and became the capital of America for a short period. It was there that John Witherspoon, who was the university president at the time and who served in the Continental Congress and who was the only clergyman and the only college president to sign the Declaration of Independence, invited General Washington to a meeting of the Continental Congress in Nassau Hall. There Washington rendered his thanks of a grateful nation, and it was there that Congress learned the British had signed a peace treaty to grant the former colonies their independence.
After I departed the Faculty Room I entered Memorial Hall just outside One Nassau Hall, the office of President Tilghman, and observed the names of Princeton alumni engraved on the walls who had lost their lives serving our nation in time of war. The numbers were listed as follows:
American Revolution - 10
I have just finished reading the memorials in the November 7 issue for the 13 victims of the terrible events on September 11 (cover story). I would like to express the highest praise for the very sensitive manner in which you handled this difficult situation. It makes one proud to be associated with your publication in any way.
Si Lopez 29
On my discharge from the Navy at the end of World War II, I returned to Princeton and enrolled in the basic philosophy course taught by Walter Stace. Professor Stace had been a British civil servant. His last post was that of governor general of what was then known as Ceylon. As I recall, about midway in the fall term, Professor Stace one day came to class and began to discuss the founding of Israel in terms of political morality. He said that the justifications for a political state Jewish settlers would make orange trees bloom in the desert; God in the Old Testament had promised the land belonging to the Palestinians for so many years to the descendants of Abraham; the Balfour Declaration in 1917 recognized the Zionist claims to establish an independent Israeli state in Palestine; and the recognition and acceptance of the situation created by the acts of Israeli terrorists and activists in Palestine did not excuse the basic immorality of our actions.
It was wrong for the U.S. and England to use their immense power against the Palestinians by aiding and abetting in their expulsion from lands they have owned for many generations. He said that the moral thing for the U.S. and England would be to accept the displaced Jews from Europe into the U.S. and England. He said that it was simply easier and more palatable to us to use our might to create a state for the displaced Jews in derogation of the rights of the Palestinians.
He then went on to predict that the fallout from the establishment of Israel would have consequences that would be paid for by my generation and future generations. He said that the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine would unite the entire Muslim world against us, and he predicted that the Muslim world would inevitably coalesce and fight to try to right the wrongs now being done to their coreligionists, the Palestinians. He also mentioned the fact that Muslims controlled vast reserves of petroleum. He told us we could no longer view the Arabs as nothing but simple nomads in pajamas and bathrobes riding camels around in the desert.
As I watched with horror the events of September 11, the memory of Professor Staces prophetic words sent anew a chill that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
William Prickett 47
You far exceeded the intended effects of your Hail and Farewell section as described to the Hartford Courant reporter. Thank you for bringing the richness of these lives to our attention and thank you to the correspondents whose words and thoughts were the result of such remarkable love and friendship. Well done.
Terry Smith '64
You were so right to print those remembrances so that we could share to a small extent, at least, the grief and the love of those Princeton men and women (cover story, November 7)."Grief is the price of love." That was in a message from Queen Elisabeth to the Memorial Service for the British who died in the World Trade Center. In my war, World War II, we hardly ever had a chance to grieve because death of friends and new found comrades was an every day occurrence, and we just went on with what we had to do. The grieving for those guys came years later as we got older and thought more often about what they had missed and how much we miss them.
Thanks for deciding to do this and for doing it just right.
Ward Chamberlin 43
Like many Americans, I am amazed at the hatred being vented on our country at this time.
This is the country that comes to the rescue of people victimized by natural disasters anywhere in the world with all the help we can muster. People seeking to live in freedom come here legally (and illegally) from all over the world, and are welcomed. We take in hordes of refugees, and on many occasions we have helped to overthrow their oppressors and return their countries to them.
After much thought, I have concluded that the reason for the fanatical hatred of America is not just our superpower status or our prosperity or even envy of our lifestyle. We have what many world leaders consider dangerous ideas.
There is no other country in the world that provides its citizens with the protection from government embodied in our Bill of Rights. This concept is a threat to all who would control the lives of others. That individuals can be free to own property, travel as they wish, say what they think, work where they will, own weapons, be entitled to a speedy and public trial by a jury of their peers, be entitled to confront their accusers in court, to subpoena defense witnesses, and, most importantly, that government is required to honor these rights, is a concept not specified anywhere else in the world.
The founders of our United States understood, from first-hand experience, the importance of limiting power. They labored long and hard to provide us with a constitution that would protect us from government. As the direct result we have been blessed with one of the longest surviving governments in the world.
All the academic garbage taught In the 1960s was designed to gradually suppress our constitution and prepare us to accept a socialist world under U.N. control. Unfortunately this still continues today on most of the nation's campuses. Theocrats, dictators, royalists, conquerors, communists, socialists, tribal chiefs, warlords, and even our own home-grown liberals, all despise these restraints.
Since the end of World War II and the advent of the Internet, which authoritarians find difficult to control, these dangerous ideas are being spread worldwide at an ever increasing pace. Many think this must be stopped before people understand that they CAN all be free. America has created the world's most successful economy precisely because of these freedoms. We have no monopoly on the world's resources. Free people just make more efficient use of them, when left to their own devices. Freedom also causes self-reliance, optimism, and encourages individuals to take risks and create new and better products and ways to accomplish objectives. In this country we have "built a better mousetrap," and those who decline to emulate us, for whatever reason, hate us for our success, and especially the ideology that made it possible.
Burnet Fisher '46
I am a Princeton alumnus who experienced the events of September 11 firsthand.
I have been working in the DC area since completing my MA in Near Eastern Studies in December 2000. I serve on the Army Staff as a Middle East analyst. I work in Crystal City, about six blocks south of the Pentagon. My sections office space in the Pentagon was being renovated and we were to move back sometime in the fall.
Like everyone, I went to work on September 11 having no idea how life would change. After we realized the Pentagon had been hit, several of my colleagues and I went there to assist in setting up a crisis response team to assess the situation for the Army leadership. I got to there about two hours after the attack. It was filled with smoke and people were still trying to get out. I have been working there since the 11th. As employees began to return to work in the following days, I saw the desire to get back to a normal schedule, but also the reactions of people who were dealing with a great deal of trauma.
The shock of what happened really hit me when I went to the Pentagon barbershop a week after the attack. I watched as one woman who worked there burst into tears when one of her regular customers would come up to say hello and tell her he was all right. We continue our work as the campaign against terrorism is beginning in earnest. I hope that I can continue to use the perspective and critical thinking I learned at Princeton to assist the decision makers.
Major Robert Friedenberg *00
Two hours after the bombing of the World Trade Center, my 83-year-old mother turned away from the unremitting images of horror on her television. Nervously, she began to sort through a bureau stuffed with the papers and memorabilia of her seven children. She was trying to distract herself by putting her house in order in anticipation of an imminent move. At the bottom of a drawer, she came upon my Princeton diploma from the 1972 commencement and a long lost thesis with its dedication "To my father and mother". The thesis was entitled The Port of New York Authoritys- World Trade Center: The Role of An Autonomous Authority in a Metropolitan Decision. My mother is a religious woman. She informed me that her discovery of the thesis on September 11 was "prophetic." I flipped through 144 pages, recalling how I had once attached so much importance to the completion of this political study. From the perspective of an alumnus of 30 years, it wasn't exactly Pulitzer prize winning, deathless prose. Still, it represented a rite of passage in my undergraduate development. In the aftermath of the destruction of the twin towers, I scanned my thesis with a tinge of awe and irony. Turning to the last paragraph of the last page of the last chapter, this is what I found verbatim with my original underlining and attribution to Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias":
I met a traveler from an antique land,
I have no idea what possessed me to end a rather dry and uninspired exposition of the machinations and maneuvering of the Port Authority in that way. My mother still believes that it was prophetic.
Thomas F. Schiavoni 72
September 12, 2001
The only reason I am writing this e-mail is that I, as a longtime expat, feel in the aftermath of unspeakable horror the need to express a few thoughts to an American "audience" that I have a personal connection to. Now is the time for America to show the world its capacity to lead - politically, militarily - and yes, morally.
There has been more than enough killing. Retaliation will only lead to more violence, to a radicalization of the opponent, as we have seen on the basis of Israel's eye-for-an-eye policy vis-à-vis Palestinian terrorists.
This is one of the main lessons we teach our children - why do our leaders consistently neglect to recognize this most basic fact of human nature? We cannot possibly accept the logical consequence of permanent retaliation: either a permanent state of conflict or the radical, total physical elimination of the opponent...
One can only hope that President Bush does not translate his warlike words into actual deeds. Why is everyone talking about retaliation rather than justice? (To be honest, I'm not sure that "retaliation" is the word that is being used. I cannot receive CNN. The German word is "Vergeltung", which means "retaliation," though I sometimes wonder whether "revenge" might not be more appropriate...).
Of course, the people behind yesterday's barbaric deeds MUST be brought to justice but surely not at the cost of further civilian casualties. Not to mention the fact that the U.S. would forfeit the support (which up to now is total!) of much of the free world with a rash attack of some country somewhere (and let's not even think about what kind of escalation of radical Muslim sentiment that might cause).
What if the man behind the attack were American, as was the case with the Oklahoma bombings - would it be okay to bomb the guy's house and kill lots of his neighbors? I don't know how to end this missive. I'm a bit scared. I feel dependent upon the judgment of an internationally inexperienced Texas oilman who might feel he needs to show America what a tough guy he is (speaking of which, it is quite unsettling to non-Americans that he refers only to Americans in all that he says - the fact of the matter is that when it comes to his judgments on these issues, he is the leader not just of America but of the entire world - all European leaders have stressed their unconditional solidarity in the last two days, something that I have not yet heard acknowledged by the president).
I know that many representatives of America's military and political establishment view today's Europeans as spineless chickens - and there is definitely something to the argument that Europe always calls America to duty when the going gets tough... But I'd love to show them pictures of Rostock (my town) on a certain morning in 1942... just imagine yesterday's cloud of smoke and dust extending over the entire city.
My son's maternal grandmother was an eight-year-old girl in Dresden on February 13, 1945, and she vividly recalls listening to the whimpers of her grandmother, who was buried under her house, for the two days until she died. I could write a book about the memories, feelings, impressions, reactions I have drawn out of my ex-mother-in-law over the years.
When a city is turned into ashes, it makes no difference to the inhabitants who was morally "in the right." Is there anything whatsoever that could justify the risk of this happening to New York, Paris, London, Rome, etc., etc.? - or is it overly paranoid of me to assume that a terrorist group capable of yesterday's attack might be in possession of an atomic bomb and is just waiting for an excuse to use it? (When I think of all the Russian uranium that has vanished in the last ten years in mafia suitcases...).
My son's geography teacher told his class this morning that she assumed this would turn into World War III. Let's not get into what an unbelievably stupid comment that was on the part of a 7th-grade teacher - I share it with you merely as an indication of European mistrust of the powers that be in Washington despite all official words of unconditional solidarity.
I'm totally aware of the fact that my e-mail is riddled with logical inconsistencies of all sorts and that I have suggested no alternative course of action (which clearly must involve dealing with the underlying causes of terrorism - I refrain from commenting on our recent "discussion" of Islam.)
Despite all these shortcomings, I stick to my basic, underlying message: America, show the world how big you are! Renounce revenge/retaliation and seek justice!!!
Karl Brehmer *85
To a Parent Who Lost a Spouse:
After the events of September 11 and based on my own experience, I want to offer advice to a surviving parent raising a young child. I was born in 1940. In 1942, our home burned, and we (my mother, her parents, and I) were rescued by members of the Union City, New Jersey, Fire Department. Unfortunately, my grandmother, who had been ill, succumbed two days after the fire. At that time, my father was at sea, serving as an ordinary seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine.
Seven months later, his ship was torpedoed and sunk in the North Atlantic. All were lost. Those were the circumstances, which my mother related to me gradually and without a lot of details from the time I was about five or six. As you will do, she told me stories and events in the life of both my grandmother and father. She told me that my father was brave.
Certainly, a parent whose spouse died resisting the hijackers or serving in the uniformed services that responded will do the same. But all who died that day were brave going to work every day to provide for a family and to contribute to our nation and society is an act of courage. Tell your child that. My mother never expressed any feelings of anger or hatred, but, for some time after World War II, I did have such feelings for leaders who brought about such events. She always encouraged me to meet each person as an individual, not as a member of a group.
In the middle of your feelings of anger, I urge you to prepare for your childs similar feelings. Teach them not to indict a group for the acts of individuals. Human loss as a result of deliberate, violent acts leaves behind, I believe, a special grief and sorrow, perhaps because the dead are seen as cheated. As your child grows and matures, the sense of loss may increase. He or she will know the sweetness of life, such as the love and pride that I feel for my wife and daughters, that the departed parent enjoyed only partly or for a short time. I encourage you to talk about these feelings.
Finally, your child in time and with experience will appreciate the struggle in which you are now engaged. She or he will admire your courage, and may think of her or his care as a burden. Your child may not speak of this, not wanting to add to your sorrow. Therefore, as my mother let me know in different words, tell your child that the blossoming, irrepressible, uproarious life, barely contained in that little body, not only made the effort necessary it made it possible.
On Saturday of the weekend following the tragedy in New York, I took my son to a late morning outing at a large, multifield, outdoor sports facility in west Calgary, where he was playing peewee football. For many years I have proudly flown a rendering of the American flag on the front of my vehicle, as a license plate. As the hundreds of parent and grandparent spectators milled about, several individuals, at different times over the course of the sunny midday, approached me as I sat near my sedan, and, after spotting the "stars and stripes", had this to say..."We are so very sorry for your loss." I was profoundly touched, and having suffered with all of America in the days passed, I paused, and with pride recognized that this deep sentiment is universal within the boundaries of the civilized world. And then I wept.
Canadians everywhere support this new and global challenge. DEI SUBNUMINE VIGET...and God Bless America!
Lorne R. Hill 78
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