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9-11 and Katrina prompt reflection at NC A&T

by Jordan Green

Cherish life and don’t take family for granted: These are two lessons students at NC A&T University have taken from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, events that might be considered the bookends of the George W. Bush era, the first marking the moment the president came into his own as a national leader and the second the beginning of a long slide in his public esteem.

The New York/New Jersey Connection, a group of students from the greater metropolitan New York area, co-hosted the commemorative event with the Student Union Advisory Board at the Memorial Student Union Ballroom in conjunction on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Students from the New York area and New Orleans spoke about how the two events changed them and their world. Samples of Spike Lee’s HBO documentary film When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts were shown, and afterward students converged outside for a candlelight vigil.

“I can just say in my life that this is a day I cherish because you can never know when your life might be taken away from you by terrorists or a natural disaster,” said James McIntosh, a senior majoring in business management who is the vice president of the New York/New Jersey Connection. “I’m from Harlem and on Halloween the year after Sept. 11 they threatened to bomb our trains, and it took two hours to get to school. It makes me want to be a model citizen and lend a helping hand.”

Others said the attacks increased their concern about national security.

“It changed my views politically,” 24-year-old Kevin Morgan, an A&T alumnus who is from Brooklyn, NY, said after the program. “I feel like there were certain things that could have been possibly done to avoid certain actions. It took us out of our comfort mode. We should have had more security in terms of immigration. [The hijackers] went to different schools to be educated in our country. I had to go through all this paperwork to get into college; why didn’t they catch them?”

For Davin Harris, a sophomore from the Hollygrove neighborhood of New Orleans studying electronics and computer science, the physical and psychological battering of Hurricane Katrina remains fresh.

“Certain parts of the city look like they were hit yesterday,” he said after the program.

Harris was beginning his first semester at A&T when Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. He had considered going home the weekend of the storm. Now his parents are in Atlanta and his mother has signed a three-year teaching contract there. Ultimately Harris’ immediate family members turned out to be safe but there are cousins still missing.

Before the storm Harris booked a hotel room in Jacksonville, Fla. for his parents. After his parents evacuated, cell phone communication was wiped out for many Gulf Coast residents, including the Harrises. Davin Harris became frantic when clerks at the Jacksonville hotel told him after several attempts that his parents had not checked in.

“I was going crazy,” Harris said. “I couldn’t concentrate on my studies.”

Then two weeks later his cell phone vibrated in the middle of class. It was his parents.

“I got up and walked out of class,” Harris said. “It was the happiest day of my life.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com

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