Remembering 9/11

Sept. 10, 2021

Message From Michelle

Dear CU Denver Community,

Some moments in history are so imprinted on us that we can recall exactly where we were and how we felt when they happened. Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of one such event: the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I still remember it vividly. I was a new mom and had just dropped my 4-month-old, Allie, at her first day care so I could teach my fall semester classes at Florida International University in Miami. After getting a call from a family member about the first plane crashing into the towers, I found a TV in time to see footage of the second plane crashing. Instinctively I backtracked, retrieved Allie, went home and held her close while watching the live coverage of the other planes crashing near Washington, DC and in Pennsylvania. I can still viscerally recall the horror I felt and my sense that something was very wrong, very different with this coordinated attack.  

Shortly after 9/11 I took a faculty job at George Mason University, just outside Washington, D.C., and had constant reminders of that day and its impact on my colleagues and friends, from the loss of family members to increased discrimination based on ethnicity and religion. I remember a range of emotions—fear, worry about keeping my family safe, concern about the way events like these cause people to look at others differently and how that might impact our world, and gratitude for the courage of first responders.

Twenty years later, I know that many of our students are too young to have any memories of the day. Allie, now 20 and a junior in college, says she’s most concerned about the prejudice and discrimination that so many have experienced in reaction to that day. Whatever our personal connection to 9/11, its anniversary provides an opportunity for collective remembrance: of the lives lost or altered that day, the courage demonstrated by so many in its aftermath, and the determination of our entire society to protect our freedoms.

For us fortunate enough to study or work at a university like CU Denver, 9/11 also serves as a reminder of our important role in creating and protecting an open and free society. Our steadfast commitment to free speech, and to hearing and respecting different perspectives throughout our multicultural community, offers each of us the opportunity to learn, to understand, to grow. We can use the lessons learned from 9/11 as we confront contemporary issues facing our country and world: the threat from COVID, the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, the need for equity and racial justice, and many others.

In remembrance of 9/11, this evening and tomorrow evening (Friday, Sept. 10 and Saturday, Sept. 11), the Student Commons Building (at Speer and Larimer) will be lighted up blue from sunset to midnight in honor of the victims.

Here are some other ways you can honor the anniversary in Denver this weekend:

Colorado 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb: Pay tribute to an FDNY firefighter by climbing the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center. [Saturday, Sept. 11, 7 a.m., Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, 18300 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison.]

9/11 Heroes Run: 5k for runners and walkers of all levels to honor local veterans, their families, and first responders. [Saturday, Sept. 11, 9 a.m., 101 N Yosemite Street, Denver.]

During this time, some in our community may experience heightened anxiety. If you do, I encourage you to reach out for help using the resources below.

Sometimes the worst events give us opportunities to find our inner strength and bring out our best selves. We saw it nationally with 9/11 and right here at CU Denver with our community’s response to COVID. On this important occasion for remembrance and reflection, let us recommit ourselves to each do our part to create a more peaceful, just, and compassionate world.

Michelle Marks

Resources for Coping with Anxiety and Depression

For students: CU Denver Counseling Center at 303-315-7270

For employees: The CLAS Psychology Clinic or The Colorado State Employee Assistance Program at 303-866-4314

For all: The Colorado Crisis Line at 1-844-493-8255


Chancellor’s Office

CU Denver

Lawrence Street Center

1380 Lawrence Street

Suite 1400

Denver, CO 80204


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