Printed September 12, 2001
By Iliana Limón
UNM’s main campus was eerily quiet Tuesday afternoon following the University administration’s decision to close the school in response to terrorist attacks in Washington D.C. and New York City.
“It’s hard to offer the University’s reaction to Tuesday morning’s events, but I think everyone feels the same way — this is one of the most enormous human tragedies ever in our history,” UNM President Bill Gordon said. “It certainly arouses tremendous sympathy for the people directly involved, it arouses concerns about personal safety and it’s a time when it’s important to be part of a community.”
Gordon said the campus will reopen today on a regular schedule.
While the campus remained open Tuesday morning, Gordon said campus police heightened security efforts.
“We care first and foremost about our students, faculty, staff and visitors, so we moved quickly to make sure everyone on campus was secure,” he said. “On of the reasons we closed the campus was to allow people to come together with their families, and the other was to make sure we took all the security precautions necessary in a situation like this.”
Students spending their lunch hours at nearby Frontier Restaurant and Saggios were glued to the television screens that told the latest news about two commercial airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center, a separate commercial airplane that crashed into the Pentagon and another crash in Pennsylvania.
Frontier patrons, used to lounge music blared over speakers throughout the restaurant, heard nothing but an endless stream of CBS news coverage Tuesday.
“I was amazed and just couldn’t believe that something like this could happen here,” said Marc Citeo, a UNM student who jockeyed with others during the lunch rush for a clear view of the television.
Marco Grajeda, a Technical Vocational Institute student, barely touched his food as he watched the news coverage.
“This is just so unbelievable — I found out about it when I was warming up my truck to go to school and haven’t stopped listening to reports about it ever since,” he said. “Something like this will definitely make the public more aware here in America about what goes on in the rest of the world. I’m sure that’s what the people responsible for this wanted, and I guess they got it because we’ll never forget this.”
The back of Saggios, which normally has 10 televisions covering a variety of sporting events at all times, was all news Tuesday afternoon.
“This whole thing is just shocking,” UNM student Paul McLauglin said. “I was watching a sports news channel, and they just abruptly switched from baseball highlights to the images of the World Trade Center smoldering. It was unbelievable.”
UNM student Corey Mello, 21, said she will never forget the terrorist attacks.
“This is a serious crisis, and I was too young to understand anything that happened of this magnitude before,” she said. “This is all very upsetting and shocking. It’s horrifying — I don’t know how else to put it.”
Mello added that she thought the attacks would have a significant impact on the future of the United States.
“I feel this could spark a third world war,” she said. “This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The response has to be strong and swift. We can’t just sit back and take such a horrible act lying down.”
“Some Middle Eastern country is going to get bombed,” he said.
About 150 students at a vigil outside the UNM Bookstore Tuesday afternoon spoke against seeking retribution.
“Even if you don’t like the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, there are better ways of handling it rather than killing innocent people,” said Guilherme Roschke, a community member who attended the vigil. “Those buildings are just a symptom of a larger problem. There’s a difference between retaliation and justice, and I’m sure the people involved in this think they were acting justly, but we have to be careful not to fall into the same trap.”
Roschke said he is not optimistic that the country will handle this test very well.
“When we see people die, we want to take action, and I think this will push those in power to make some difficult decisions,” he said. “We are in for some tough times and are about to see the best and worst aspects of American life. I’m afraid we’ll see more bad than good.”