I think what made 9/11 so uniquely devastating and life-altering were the challenges in the recovery effort and returning to a sense of normalcy. It was a dark cloud that lingered for what seemed an eternity.
Frank J. Ficko
Town: Fairfield, CT
Title: Associate Director of Public Safety
I was in my office when I overheard a student at our reception desk saying that a plane crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Like many others, my initial thought was that it was accidental and involved a small, private plane. I continued what I was doing until I overheard more students talking about it at our dispatch counter. I went next door to what was then Larry Mazon’s office in Multicultural Relations and saw the images on TV. That’s when I realized the magnitude of what was happening. From that moment on, all of our department goals and objectives for the upcoming academic year were predetermined.
I think what made 9/11 so uniquely devestating and life-altering were the challenges in the recovery effort and returning to a sense of normalcy. It was a dark cloud that lingered for what seemed an eternity. Even a year after the event, I recall an anthrax scare in the Barone Campus Center mailroom in which a student believed she was infected by a white, powdery substance placed on an envelope. Though a false alarm, it resulted in an evacuation of the facility and a host of emergency responders, including the regional Hazardous Material Response Team.
The following year (February 2003), the FBI declared college campuses as “soft targets” to terrorist attacks. This was also supported and posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website, urging campuses to take additional security precautions. Our response was to secure all perimeter gates except for the main gate and check all vehicles as they entered campus. That was a 24/7 operation which lasted for several weeks. Amazingly, in spite of the inconvenience and traffic back-ups, everyone understood and tolerated the increased security. I vaguely recall a hostage crisis somewhere in the middle of this (Feb 2002). Everybody was on edge. It was a very crazy time to say the least.
I was fortunate not to have lost a friend or family member in the attack, but in the weeks following, I recall the University Announcement which listed all of Fairfield’s alumni who were lost that day. That list had a very powerful effect on me. As an alumnus of Fairfield, seeing their names made the attack even more personal than it was before. It made me reflect more deeply the pain and anguish of those who had lost a loved one. Those are the people I think of today. Those are the people who suffer the most.
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