Common Good Dialogue: 9/11 Conversation & Remembrance

On Tuesday evening, September 11, students, faculty and other school community members gathered in Founders Chapel for a special Common Good Discussion — a commemoration of and conversation about the attacks on the United States that took place on September 11, 2001.

Eric LaForest, Kelly Family director of the Norton Family Center for the Common Good, spoke to the large gathering about the "collective responsibility" we have to support each other in times of difficulty and tragedy. He introduced Mimi Donegan, a psychology teacher and dorm head of Cutler Hall, and Fred Kuo, senior associate director of the Annual Fund and dorm affiliate in Howe Hall. Both Mimi and Fred lost family members in the World Trade Center towers in New York City during the attacks 17 years ago. They graciously agreed to share their personal stories at the Common Good Discussion to help build understanding with a generation of young people who were either infants or not yet born on the day of the attacks.

Mimi lost her brother, Billy Kelly, who was 30 years old and in the World Trade Center for a professional conference that day. Fred lost his father, Fred J. Kuo Jr., who was at his workplace on the 91st floor of the South Tower.

Both Mimi and Fred said they tell their stories to help the younger generation understand the impact of the September 11 attacks on the individuals involved, their families, and their communities.

"The tears still come," Mimi acknowledged, "but that's okay."

Fred and Mimi said they were grateful for the outpouring of compassion and support from their families, friends, colleagues, and communities, which has helped them endure and encouraged them to share their experience with others. Doing so, they agreed, helps them to "pass on the kindnesses" they received from many people in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, and in the weeks, months, and years of coming to terms with the grief. Fred also noted that everyone, even within close family units, experiences and expresses grief differently and in his or her own time.

Fred and Mimi invited students to ask questions, and afterwards, Eric and the standing-room-only gathering thanked them for sharing their stories.

Following the talk, the audience adjourned to the Meadows, where two paper lanterns were lit and sent up into the night sky in a moving remembrance of Mimi's and Fred's loved ones and the thousands of other families affected by the events of 9/11.

The dialogue and commemoration were organized by the Norton Family Center for the Common Good.