The Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 17, 2001
September 17, 2001
VOL. 31, NO. 3


Terrorist Acts Send Shock Waves Through JHU

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The silence was stunning on Tuesday afternoon at Homewood. On a serene and idyllic campus filled with hope and promise, the morning's horrific terrorist attacks on America had shattered the cocoon of academic life and changed thousands of lives forever.

With classes throughout the university canceled for the day, students retreated to their rooms. In the normally hushed lobby of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, the solemn voice of newscaster Dan Rather emanated loudly from a pair of televisions; a third set offered local news. Students sat and stared at the screens, no books in sight.

On the building's glass entrance walls, fliers promoting campus activities had been joined by new ones, taped hastily in place:

"Reach out to others in this time of sadness," read one.

"Interfaith Center open to all for support and vigil," said another.

As the sun sets behind Gilman, students gathered on the upper quad quietly wait for the start of a memorial vigil for the victims of the terrorist attacks.

Just a few hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, political science professor Steven David, an expert on international security, weapons and terrorism, stood in a hallway of Mergenthaler Hall with a Baltimore Sun reporter, one of many media members seeking him out for comment and analysis.

"This is the worst loss of life on American soil since the Civil War," said David, shaking his head. "None of us will ever be the same."

Later, David worked to organize a student forum to discuss the events. "How do they face this?" he asked as he planned the event, held Thursday afternoon. "They've grown up, I think, with a sense that America is largely invincible, untouchable, not involved in these crazy conflicts. And that's no longer the case."

David has studied international security and terrorism for years, and he and his colleagues contemplated such events, he said, but the reality still struck hard. "I think it's the most shocking event, political event, in my life," he said.

While federal authorities tracked down those who were responsible, David talked about a new awareness of our vulnerability and the need to resist shrinking from world affairs. "People may focus on America's support of Israel, but my guess is, the people who did this have a broader agenda, that America, as leader of the Western world, our culture permeates the rest of the world, including the Islamic world. In essence, we'd have to stop being us to give them what they want--and we're not going to do that."

The terrorist attacks triggered concern among American and Israeli researchers who had just sat down together Tuesday morning for a long-planned international symposium on biomedical science and engineering. As a precautionary measure, Clark Hall, the Homewood campus's new biomedical engineering building, where the conference took place, was locked down, and a security guard was posted at the main door.

More than a dozen scientists and engineers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology were taking part in a founding symposium with colleagues from Hopkins, resulting from a joint research pact signed last year. Many of the Israelis, who live under a constant threat of terrorist attacks, immediately placed cell-phone calls, assuring loved ones that they were safe and inquiring about the fate of friends and family elsewhere.

A few physicians from the School of Medicine left the conference to prepare for a possible influx of patients at the hospital. But most of the participants remained at Clark Hall, and the research presentations continued as scheduled, despite the dismissal of regular classes.

"There was a strong resolve on the part of all the people involved that we should not yield to the terrorists by canceling the conference," said Judy Evans, administrator for the Department of Biomedical Engineering, which hosted the event.

At the opening of the second day of the symposium, the Israeli visitors offered words of condolence, and the participants observed a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks.

Because of the halt of air flights in the wake of the attacks, the Israeli visitors were unable to fly home Thursday morning as planned. As The Gazette went to press, Hopkins staff members were assisting the visitors in making new travel arrangements.

At the university's Downtown Center at Charles and Fayette streets, headquarters of SPSBE's Graduate Division of Business and Management, many early-morning pedestrians learned of the attack on the World Trade Center when a bulletin flashed on the Downtown Center's news ticker, which has been scrolling Bloomberg News headlines since January.

Passersby stood transfixed, reading and pointing at the words--"Jet Crashes Into N.Y. World Trade Center"--much as a previous generation had gazed at bulletins about World War II that were flashed on a news ticker The Sun then operated a block away, at Charles and Baltimore streets.

Sheldon Greenberg, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Police Executive Leadership Program, was in a meeting room at the Downtown Center on Tuesday morning for the start of a two-day conference called "Teens and Police Leading the Way to Safer Communities." The room was full of police officials and school administrators, including some high-ranking police from Washington, D.C.

"We were just under way when we got word," said Greenberg. "Police beepers started going off. Of course, [the attendees] all had to go back."

The conference, which had attracted school officials and police from around the country, was canceled, as were the week's classes in Police Executive Leadership, the first time that had ever happened, Greenberg said.

Most noticeably canceled at Hopkins was SAIS' annual Rostov Lecture on International Affairs, scheduled for Tuesday night. Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser and assistant to President George W. Bush for national security affairs, was to have given a major policy address titled "Foreign Policy Under the Bush Administration." More than 80 journalists were expected, along with a full house of attendees.

The day of irony began early at SAIS. As the day's tragic events were unfolding, about 100 people were listening to Dennis Ross, the former Middle East negotiator for the United States, give his thoughts about the future steps to be taken in dealing with the crisis in the Middle East.

"By 9:30 a.m., it became clear that New York was under terrorist attack," said Felisa Neuringer, the school's director of public affairs. "As I tried to make calls to Condoleezza Rice's office at the National Security Council housed in the White House, further terrifying events were unfolding right here in Washington. The Pentagon had been struck, and the White House was being evacuated. Then the reality sunk in that we at SAIS were barely a mile away from the White House and only a few miles away from our 'ground zero,' the Pentagon."

As elsewhere, every TV and radio was on, and students, faculty and staff were on the phones trying to find out the fate of loved ones. In addition, people expressed concern for the school's former dean, Paul Wolfowitz, who is now deputy secretary of defense.

"In the midst of the chaos, there remained some semblance of calm," Neuringer said. "For some reason or another, we felt safe here in Dupont Circle."

Because of security concerns, safety measures were heightened at the Applied Physics Laboratory, which performs approximately 75 percent of its work for the Department of Defense and 21 percent for NASA.

"Fortunately, APL did not receive any threats," said Dee Reese, head of communications and public affairs. "However, because our sponsors shut down for business, our director closed the Lab for business beginning at approximately 11 a.m. and implemented an orderly dismissal process. We did not want everyone to leave at the same time and cause traffic jams that would negatively affect surrounding businesses and community residents." The Lab is located in Laurel, Md., not far from Washington.

The security measures, according to Reese, included more visible perimeter security patrols and inspection of incoming personal packages such as briefcases. Additionally, security was increased at the materials receiving and mail centers.

Many of the Lab's customers work in the Pentagon and the surrounding area, and APL employees visit these locations every day. Several employees were visiting the Pentagon for business purposes on Tuesday, and all returned unharmed.

One staff member, however, was serving his annual Naval Reserve active duty at the Pentagon. As of press time, Ron Vauk, of the Submarine Technology Department, was unaccounted for.

For so many of the university community, the events had happened too close to home.

According to the Registrar's Office, Hopkins currently has 1,639 registered students from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and 6,781 from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

Fritz Schroeder, executive director for annual programs and alumni relations, said that 15 alumni and eight parents list the World Trade Center as their business address; 15 alumni and 19 parents list the Pentagon. His office has been in touch with alumni by e-mail to assure them that students are being provided grief support and assistance in locating information regarding family matters, and that his office would keep them apprised of planned memorial activities.

School of Nursing students were in class or just coming to class when news of the tragedy hit, and concern spread quickly. Sandra Angell, associate dean for academic and student support services, took immediate action to help students.

"The first thing we did was to set up locations throughout the school where students could get information," Angell explained. "We set up radios in our cafe area and admissions offices, and televisions in other offices. Many of our students have friends and relatives in New York and Washington, and were quite concerned. We used one of our suites as a place to provide support for some of our students."

Students scrambled for their cell phones to try and check on loved ones. Others who live in or near Washington were worried about how they might get home.

"We worked to help match students who live in D.C. with places here where they could spend the night," Angell said. "Our goal was to make sure all students had the support they needed."

She then made rounds of the building in search of any students who may have been tucked in a corner somewhere studying, so that all knew what was happening.

As nursing students gathered around a radio in the cafe, straining to hear the latest information, interim Dean Martha Hill returned from a meeting with university leadership. She climbed onto a chair and informed somber students that the university would be closed for the rest of the day. She also answered individual questions some students had.

"Once the initial shock passed, many of our students began to ask what could they do to help," Angell said. "They wanted something constructive to do that might improve the tragic situation."

Gary Pasternack, associate professor and director of graduate studies of pathology in the School of Medicine, was teaching a class when he learned of the terrorist attack. "The program coordinator called me on my cell phone during my lecture," Pasternack said. "My first thoughts were disbelief; this can't be happening."

Upon telling the news to his students, Pasternack said, several reacted with alarm and deep concern as they had friends and family living or working in New York City.

"It's been very somber here today," he said. "We're all just shell-shocked by this tragedy."

Shortly after 10 a.m., The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, including Bayview Medical Center and Howard County General Hospital, activated their respective disaster emergency plans. Concurrently, Johns Hopkins Medicine made all of its personnel and resources available to assist in any way possible during the unprecedented crisis.

"Basically, everyone here was put on alert status," said Howard Gwon, head of emergency response at the JHMI campus. "We wanted enough staff present to take care of whatever emergency arose and to care for incoming casualties."

Medical personnel not on site--especially surgeons, nurses and burn specialists--were recalled, and Bayview Medical Center's burn unit was put on full alert. At each of the hospitals, all elective surgeries, admissions and transfers were temporarily postponed in order to make available as many operating rooms and beds as possible. Patients who were medically cleared for discharge were released as rapidly as possible to free up even more beds.

Johns Hopkins Medicine also launched an emergency blood drive in anticipation of an increased demand. According to Gwon, the staff response was "overwhelming."

On Thursday, nearly 60 Hopkins doctors, nurses and phlebotomists traveled in a police-escorted motorcade to Washington to assist in the White House blood drive called for by President Bush. A prayer service at 11:55 a.m. on Friday brought an overflow crowd to Hurd Hall, where hundreds of employees observed together the nation's moment of silence.

As of press time, no patients had been received by either Bayview or The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The Bloomberg School of Public Health saw to it that TVs were on throughout its buildings on Tuesday and that counselors were in each of the TV rooms to offer support and discussion. More intensive and private counseling was provided for any who needed it, and phone banks were set up for use by students and faculty.

With a large number of international students, the school sent them an e-mail message expressing concern that they may be feeling particularly vulnerable given the incidents in New York and Washington. "These tragic events may provoke intense emotion in many Americans, particularly with regard to individuals from foreign countries," it said. "While we do not think you should be afraid, we do believe it is important for you to use caution during this national crisis."

The Peabody campus is not noted for silence. On a warm September day when windows are left open, sounds would normally be drifting out of practice rooms, forming a peculiarly Peabody acoustic melange. Sept. 11 was notable for the unnatural hush that descended somewhere about mid-morning. Incredibly, the sounds of practicing ceased.

Groups of students, faculty and staff began clustering round the few television sets on campus. Even before the official word came that classes and rehearsals were canceled, the campus had, as it were, shut itself down emotionally. Here and there on the Plaza small groups of students were seen holding hands and praying. Some were crying.

A decision was made to cancel the week's usual Thursday Noon Recital, an occasion for the school to gather informally to hear students perform. In place of what would have been the Thursday Noon, Dean of Students Emily Frank arranged an optional counseling/discussion session to be held in Griswold Hall.

The news that had come from the networks that Morgan Stanley occupied 50 floors of the World Trade Center added a historical dimension to the tragedy for Peabody. Toward the end of his life, George Peabody, by that time running one of the world's great mercantile banking operations from London, had taken into partnership with him a young man called Junius Spencer Morgan. This was the start of the House of Morgan banking empire, represented in America by Morgan Stanley. There was a fervent hope expressed around Peabody that all its employees had made it out safely.

With the exception of SAIS, whose opening was delayed to noon, the university returned to a normal schedule on Wednesday morning.

In an e-mail to the Hopkins community, President William R. Brody wrote, "We have all been victimized by a terrible crime. Some of us have lost friends and loved ones in the horror of what occurred on Tuesday. Those of us who have not are, nevertheless, victims too. All of us are consumed with grief. Many of us are troubled by other feelings as well: fear, helplessness, rage."

Pointing out that there would be many opportunities over the next few days to share feelings and experiences, Brody said, "This is a time for all of us to come together as a community, to support each other and to reach out to each other. This is a time for us to help and to heal."

Just as the sun was setting on Thursday night, a university-wide memorial vigil began on the Gilman quadrangle.

Throughout the week, counseling was made available to all students, faculty and staff needing help to cope with the events.

In response to numerous inquiries about donating blood, the university initially directed students and employees to Red Cross facilities but later said it would be preferable to give off-site at scheduled blood drives such as the one on Sept. 24 and 25 at Homewood. (For details about donating, see In Brief).

A number of academic events dealing with Tuesday's attacks were quickly planned.

On Friday afternoon, the Central Asia- Caucasus Institute at SAIS hosted a forum, "How to Think About the Afghan-Islamic Terrorist Threat," to provide a venue for discussing what actions might be taken in response to the destruction. Panelists at the event, which was open to the public, included Charles Fairbanks, director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at SAIS and a former deputy assistant secretary of state; Hillel Fradkin, an expert on religion and politics relating to Islam and Judaism and former professor at Barnard College and the University of Chicago; and Laurie Mylroie, publisher of Iraq News and author of Study of Revenge.

The previous afternoon, Steven David, associate dean of academic affairs in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and professor of political science, had introduced and moderated a forum that was intended to provide Homewood students with an opportunity to examine the social and political ramifications of the terrorist attacks and to look at how life had been forever changed. David was joined by Mohammad Azadpur, of the Humanities Center, who spoke on Islamic religion and how it relates to the events of Sept. 11.

The auditorium was packed with more than 350 students, faculty and staff, all of them looking for answers.

This article was a joint effort of public affairs offices throughout the university. Contributors include Anne Garside, Rod Graham, Neil Grauer, Felisa Neuringer, Kate Pipkin, Michael Purdy, Dee Reese, Greg Rienzi, Glenn Small and Phil Sneiderman. The story was edited by Lois Perschetz.

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