September 11, 2011
It was a morning just like this morning—quiet, gorgeous, with a bright blue sky.
We are gathered to remember a tragic day in our history, the nearly 3,000 people who died, and the thousands injured on September 11, 2001, in lower Manhattan, in Washington, D.C., and in rural Pennsylvania. We also remember the police, firefighters, first responders and the hundreds of volunteers who showed compassion and bravery in the face of horror.
For many of us, the memories of September 11, 2001, are as vivid as the blue sky the day of the attacks. We remember where we were, how we heard, the confusion, fear, and anger, and ultimately, the deep sadness at the loss of life and unthinkable destruction.
We all knew things would not be the same after that day, and they have not been. A great deal has changed about America and the world since that Tuesday a decade ago. But as we knew then and we know today, we are a resilient country and a resourceful people. We stand here with the knowledge that, as a nation of Americans, we have adhered to our principles and values, while adjusting our lives and protecting the tradition of a free, democratic United States of America.
Some of us have less clear memories of 9/11. The youngest Bowdoin students were new third graders that day; the oldest were only eleven or twelve years old. Karen and I have sons who were this age, and some of you have children of similar ages. In the midst of our adult concern for the victims and the incredibly courageous men and women who went into the rubble to rescue, recover, and rebuild, we were also anxious for our children. What were they thinking? How would they process the horrible images? How could we possibly explain something to them that we couldn’t grasp ourselves?
Each of you has your own memory and your own emotions about these attacks and the days that followed. What we share is an understanding of the enormity of what happened. We share as a nation of free, independent people a new sense of vulnerability created by the reality of terror on our shores. The image of those two magnificent towers falling to smoke and rubble is embedded in our memories. These events, ten years ago today, changed a decade and more. And when combined with the economic calamity of the last ten years, they leave a nation understandably seeking genuine change and a renewed focus on individual responsibility. Nine-eleven leaves us with the conviction that we should all do what we can as citizens to prevent it from ever happening again on our shores or anywhere in the world.
Many Americans—including several Bowdoin graduates over the past decade—have heeded the call for action by enlisting in the military. We stand here today at the Bowdoin flagpole, built as a memorial to the 29 Bowdoin men who died in the First World War. Next to us, just over there, is the memorial to those from Bowdoin who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. And down at the other end of the Quad stands Memorial Hall, built to honor those who served in the Civil War. So Bowdoin has its place in these great conflicts. We are proud of those who served then. We are proud of our graduates serving today. And we are proud of and grateful for the service of every man and woman across America and around the world who sacrifices on our behalf.
Like so many places and so many people, Bowdoin felt the pain of that day in a very close and very personal way.
Jim Roux of the Class of 1981 was on his way to Northern California aboard the plane that crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. A lawyer who practiced in Hartford and Portland, Jim was a decorated paratrooper, an avid mountain climber, a musician, and fly fisherman. He was also a devoted father. Jim was 42 when he died.
Frank Doyle of the Class of 1985 had an office on the 89th floor of the south tower. He was executive vice president and head of equity trading at the investment firm of Keefe Bruyette & Woods. After witnessing the first plane hit the north tower, he thought about leaving the building—Frank was a runner and in great shape—but he heeded calls to stay put, thinking it was probably safest. After the second attack, he was trapped. He called his wife, Kimmey, told her he didn’t know what would happen, but said he loved her and their two children, Zoe and Garrett. Frank was 39.
Chris Gardner—Bowdoin Class of 1987—also had an office in the south tower. The youngest managing director at Aon Risk Services, Chris rose at dawn each morning at his home in Connecticut and drove to the World Trade Center. Typically, he was at work early that day on the 105th floor. That summer, Chris had spent a lot of time here in Maine with his family. He loved the sea and wanted his boys to learn how to sail. Chris was 36 years old when the south tower collapsed.
Today, ten years later, on this campus that they loved, we remember Jim, Frank and Chris. We also remember the loved ones of others connected to Bowdoin, or not, who perished or who were injured that day. And we remember those who have died since, as a result of the attacks and their aftermath.
Please join me in a moment of silence as we gather our own thoughts about 9/11 and the lives affected then, and now.