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Remembering Sept. 11

Twenty years ago, we watched in horror as four planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Those of us who remember that day will always recall our visceral shock and disbelief, and the outpouring of shared national grief that followed the loss of nearly 3,000 lives.

The events of that day have rippled down through the past 20 years. Sept. 11 ushered in a new sense of national vulnerability and brought into sharp relief the importance of safeguarding America’s democratic values, our freedoms as citizens and residents of this country and our pluralistic society – all of which came under attack that day. The attacks also sparked developments in national security, technology, politics, law and foreign policy that still shape today’s world.

Stanford faculty members continue to study these ramifications and keep the lessons of 9/11 alive for a new generation of students. From studying American intelligence in the lead-up to the attacks, to understanding ideological extremism, to spotlighting threats to and violations of human rights, to developing recommendations for future foreign policy decisions, our scholars continue to illuminate and draw meaning from these events and what they tell us about American society and our role in the broader world.

The Sept. 11 attacks underscored the need for greater understanding across lines of religion, culture, race and nationality in our increasingly interconnected world. Greater understanding across differences is an antidote to extremism – one that we still need today. The aftermath of Sept. 11 also included instances of unfair targeting of Muslim communities – instances that run counter to our ideals for an inclusive society. Stanford has a critical role to play in fostering diversity and pluralism within our community and across our broader society, and in ensuring that varied perspectives are part of an inclusive discourse on our campus.

I also want to highlight that tomorrow is often observed as a day of service to honor all who died, including the first responders who lost their own lives to save the lives of others.  Engaging in service can also help reinvigorate the feelings of national solidarity and communal spirit that were so deeply felt in the aftermath of the attacks. As we pause to remember the lives lost twenty years ago, I encourage our community to take part by using your skills, knowledge, and talents to strengthen your community and improve the lives of those around you.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne