How events unfolded at MIT after Sept. 11, 2001


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The people of MIT were no different from the rest of America in their reactions to the terrorist attacks on that sunny Tuesday morning a year ago. First came stunned shock; and then the community rapidly came together to share grief and craft a response to the violence. Here is a timeline of what happened that day and in the following weeks. For links to all the Tech Talk stories on the tragedy and its aftermath, click here.

SEPT. 11

The first hijacked plane hits the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York at 8:46 a.m. The second plane hits the south tower about 15 minutes later. Soon afterwards, a third plane hits the Pentagon and another crashes in Pennsylvania. MIT and the world learn of these events almost instantly via TV, radio and the Internet.

Chancellor Phillip Clay calls for a campus-wide gathering in Killian Court to be held the next afternoon.

President Charles Vest sends an e-mail message of support to the entire MIT community. He is out of the country on business and won't be able to return home for several days because of the freeze on commercial flights.

Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu students offer prayers for consolation and peace at a vigil on the steps of the Stratton Student Center Tuesday evening.

Lincoln Laboratory closes as a precaution; it reopens on Sept. 13.

SEPT. 12

Five thousand members of the MIT community gather on Killian Court to share their feelings about the attacks. It was the largest assembly in 85 years at MIT for an event other than graduation.

President Vest writes a letter to parents of MIT students, detailing how the Institute is providing extra support for students during this extraordinary time.

The first of two Center for International Studies teach-ins is held. Speakers focus on the nature of the attacks, the intentions and capabilities of the attackers and possible U.S. reactions.

SEPT. 13

Students and others scrawl their thoughts and feelings on a paper banner hung on the wall of Lobby 10 next to an American flag and the World War II memorial.

SEPT. 14

A midday interfaith service, scheduled when President Bush declared the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, fills the chapel and overflows into Kresge Auditorium.

"The Reflecting Wall at MIT," a wooden replica of a fragment of the wall of the World Trade Center installed next to the MIT Chapel, is dedicated when hundreds lay roses, candles and personal notes on the structure.

A memorial service is held for MIT alumnus Daniel Lewin, a member of the Algorithms group at the Laboratory for Computer Science and co-founder of Akamai Technologies. Lewin was a passenger on the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.

The Alumni Association creates "Are You OK?," a bulletin-board web site where alumni who might have been affected by the attacks can post a message to let the MIT community know they're safe.

The Class of 2002 makes looped white ribbon lapel pinsin honor of the victims and hands them out.

SEPT. 16

The Comparative Media Studies program creates "re:constructions," a web site devoted to reflections on the terrorist attacks. "Community Expressions," created by the Center for Reflective Community Practice and the Committee on Campus Race Relations, is launched later.

SEPT. 17

The second CIS teach-in explores the challenges and diplomatic skills of U.S. leadership, the dangers of extreme nationalism in the United States, and the country's much-altered national role in international relations.

SEPT. 20

At a student-organized peace rally on McDermott Court, faculty and students advocate nonviolence instead of military action by the U.S. government.

The first of a new series of five teach-ins, organized by several departments and centers at MIT, is held. Speakers at the event discuss U.S. and international media behavior in the wake of the attacks.

SEPT. 24

At the second of five teach-ins, international students express worries about terrorism and being the target of hatred.

OCT. 2

Acting Gov. Jane Swift asks incoming MIT police chief John DiFava to serve as interim Massport security chief at Logan Airport for 45 days. She also asks Institute Professor Sheila E. Widnall to join a six-member panel of experts that will recommend reforms in the operation of Logan Airport.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 11, 2002.


Topics: Security studies and military, National relations and service, September 11

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