9/11 still resonates with those in college at time
Twelve years ago this morning, Josie Paza Cothran’s view of her college years — and life in general — changed forever as she emerged from a dormitory room at High Point University.
About 10 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, the 19-year-old college student from Hagerstown, Md., was alone in her room on campus during a time before the advent of Facebook and Twitter.
“As I came out of my dorm room, a girl named Amanda said to me, ‘Did you see?’” Cothran recalled. “I said, ‘See what?’ And I remember the look on her face. She looked right at somebody else on the hall and said, ‘She doesn’t know yet.’”
Cothran instantly found a TV set and began to watch in horror as the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon in Washington unfolded before a shocked nation and world.
“It felt surreal to me for two or three weeks, maybe,” Cothran, now 31, told The High Point Enterprise. “I baby-sat some kids who were preschool age at the time. And they were my family away from my family down here. And I remember the little boy, being 5 or 6, looking at the TV and saying, ‘Oh, I’ve seen this movie,’ when they were replaying the attacks. I remember that vividly, thinking it does seem like a movie or a bad dream.”
On today’s recognition of Sept. 11, as the anniversary inches further into double-digit numbers, the day carries personal meaning for all range of Americans. But for Cothran and millions of other U.S. college students who attended class from 2001-05, the terrorist attacks forged their consciousness as they were forming views of life. College, after all, is a time for discovering yourself as a young adult and learning about the world outside of your immediate boundaries.
HPU Provost Dennis Carroll, who was working at HPU from 2001-05 and has stayed in touch with many students from that time, said he believes the combination of the terrorist attacks and rash of school shootings in America has made those young people more aware of safety — their own and that of the nation.
“I also think they are much more willing to learn about other religions. They are open to understanding what the Muslim faith is about — not to criticize it, but understand it,” Carroll said. “There is a greater willingness to understand diversity of cultures. They recognize that the world is a much smaller place now.”
And watching how America responded to Sept. 11 has given the students who went through college then a deeper appreciation and respect for police officers, firefighters, military personnel and others on the front line of responding to tragedy, Carroll said.
For Cothran, a 2003 HPU graduate who’s a deejay for the 1075KZL radio station in the Triad, the aftermath of Sept. 11 is weaved into her memories of her final years of college.
Cothran was at HPU when students planted a memorial garden, which still adorns the campus, that was dedicated for the first anniversary of the attacks. Indeed, Cothran still has a copy of the student newspaper that featured a front-page story and picture of colorful flowers sprouting from the memorial garden when it was unveiled.
Cothran, who earned a degree in communications, has blossomed into a young adult and mother of a small child. But had the attacks never happened, Cothran acknowledges, she might have developed different viewpoints emerging from her college experience. For example, she wouldn’t be as attuned to world affairs as she is today.
“It hit home, and we thought we were so immune to it after Pearl Harbor,” Cothran said.
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