Sept. 10, 2021
Tomorrow marks a solemn anniversary, one that none of us wish was such. It was 20 years ago, September 11, 2001, that grief, sadness, and anger overtook the conscience of our country following the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history. That day, 2,996 people lost their lives, including at least two Creighton alumni. We remember them tomorrow, as we remember all those who passed away, and the families who have coped with that terrible loss ever since.
A Jesuit scholastic working in the Department of Philosophy as a “regent,” I was on campus that day, as were many who are reading this now. And like me, most of us remember vividly what we were doing. After completing an early morning breakfast meeting in the private dining room of the Jesuit Community — at the east end of the first-floor hallway of Creighton Hall, which is, in fact, the former office suite of the Creighton president — I proceeded down the hallway, and stopped momentarily near the mythical gold-door elevator of the Jesuit Community. The front-door reception area was still staffed in those days, and Kay Miller was at the desk watching CNN footage of the first crash at the World Trade Center in New York. We discussed the oddity of what seemed to be an accident of significant magnitude, and instantly recognized the tragedy involved. As the other events of 9/11 unfolded, I would soon learn from leadership of the university that classes should indeed convene. Not wanting students to begin isolating in their rooms and residences, faculty were encouraged to maintain classes, and as such, to sustain our genuine sense of community. That evening — heartsick about the loss of life, confused about the scale of violence, and as Americans, feeling a bit insecure and vulnerable, even in Omaha — faculty, staff, and students gathered in and around St. John’s by the hundreds.
One of my predecessors, then Creighton-President the Rev. John P. Schlegel, SJ, told the crowd that the day would likely be forever seared in our memory. “No words can encapsulate the scope of the human and material tragedy,” he said. “All of us have confronted the fragility of human life. All of us, from whatever religious tradition, see the need for a comforting and peace-giving God.”
Let us remember those words and that day 20 years ago, as we as a Creighton community strive to build a more just world, always generous in our care for others, and guided by our profound belief in the dignity of every individual.
Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD