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Taking hold of terror
Kellogg students react with resolve and compassion to the Sept. 11 attack on America

By Rebecca Lindell

  Assistant Dean Rich Honack
© Nathan Mandell
  Dean Jain and Assistant Dean Rich Honack announced news of the terrorist attacks as CIM Week began.

September 11 dawned bright and clear, a day as full of promise as the hundreds of young men and women streaming toward the Jacobs Center at the Kellogg School.

It was the first morning of CIM Week, Kellogg's famously spirited orientation for new students. Nodding hello to their new classmates , the students settled into their seats in the Owen L. Coon Forum, excited to begin a new chapter in their lives.

Dean Emeritus Donald P. Jacobs greeted the crowd, welcoming them to the "Kellogg culture." Laser beams swept the auditorium. The students cheered and applauded on cue. Dean Dipak Jain stepped up to introduce himself and describe his vision for Kellogg's future.

The tightly choreographed show was proceeding according to plan. But unbeknownst to the 540 new students in the auditorium, the world outside had been violently transformed.

As Jain talked about the coming school year, one hijacked airplane, then another, slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York. Soon another exploded into the Pentagon.

Millions watched the television images in horror. The nation suddenly and irretrievably lost its sense of safety and complacency.

Jain, unaware of the unfolding drama, continued to speak. "Did you hear what happened?" someone whispered to section leader John Thee '02, who was standing near the back of the room. "What are you talking about?" replied Thee.

"Some planes just hit the World Trade Center," the student said. Thee ran down to the television in the student lounge to see the carnage in progress. When he returned to the auditorium, the news had spread to the Kellogg administrators seated in the front row, but most of the students in the room still had no idea what was transpiring.

Assistant Dean Rich Honack pulled aside Jon Neuhaus '02, the CIM Week master of ceremonies, and revealed the horrible news. "We need to figure out how to tell the students," Honack told Neuhaus. "You need to get out there and stall."

When Jain finished his presentation, an alarmed Neuhaus ad-libbed that some speakers had been delayed. In the meantime, he said, he'd take questions from audience about what to expect at Kellogg the next two years.

Outwardly poised, Neuhaus was filled with foreboding. Finally Honack stepped up to the podium. "As I am speaking, the United States is under what appears to be a terrorist attack," Honack said. "CNN is reporting that a hijacked American Airlines passenger jet out of Boston crashed into one tower of the World Trade Center, while another jet just crashed into the other tower. We have also just received word that a bomb of some kind has gone off at the Pentagon." The ebullient crowd fell silent.

"We are monitoring the situation closely and preparing to bring you live reports," continued Honack. "If any of you need to make telephone calls because you think someone you know may be affected, please feel free to do so now. We also have grief counselors waiting to meet with you on the second floor in the Career Management Center."

Finally one student demanded, "Is this a joke?"

"Unfortunately, this is not a joke," replied Honack.

At that, fully a fifth of the Class of 2003 fled the room, many frantically punching numbers on their cell phones. The rest sat in confused, stunned silence.

  Kellogg students raise money for families of alums
© Steve Serio
  Kellogg students in Evanston raised more than $12,000 during a fundraising social featuring student musicians. The money will go to families of the alums who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Jose Aragon '03 sat in shock for a moment, holding in his mind the image of his mother and father, both employees at the Pentagon. "All I could hear was my heartbeat," he says. Then he bolted the auditorium and raced toward the Student Affairs office.

Assistant Dean Fran Brasfield lent Aragon her cell phone, which he used to leave a series of frantic messages on his parents' answering machine. He spent the next few hours wandering at the Jacobs Center and sitting in the atrium, praying for the phone to deliver the message he longed to hear: "Your parents are all right."

A hush at the Allen Center
It was the breakfast hour at the James L. Allen Center, and the dining room hummed with voices from around the world. The third day of International Live-In Week was getting under way.

Many of the 150 students in the building had traveled from as far away as Hong Kong, Israel and Germany to study negotiations and marketing strategy with their Evanston counterparts. All were participants in Kellogg's International Executive MBA programs, both in Evanston and at Kellogg's partner schools abroad.

A hush fell over the room. Someone had just delivered the news that the World Trade Center had been attacked.

The students flocked to television sets around the building. Others, who were already in class at the time, received the news when Kellogg administrators interrupted their class. Many made a beeline for the telephones, trying desperately to make a connection over lines jammed by millions seeking news about their loved ones.

"Everywhere you saw the same stare, the same shock, which later turned to anger," recalls EMP student Roger Mason. Outside a classroom, one student sat slumped in a chair, weeping helplessly, his cell phone - for the moment useless - in his lap.

The school summoned grief counselors and clergy to help the students, even as the administration decided to continue the IEMBA program. "You have to keep going," one Israeli student told EMP Director Erica Kantor. "When things like this happen, you don't miss a beat."

Absorbing the shock
The CIM Week committee, on the other hand, made the decision to cancel most of the day's events for full-time students. Students were encouraged to take whatever steps they needed to deal with the tragedy unfolding in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania, where a fourth hijacked airplane had crashed.

Many continued to try to dial out of the Jacobs Center. Others spent hours in front of video screens in R.L. Coon Forum and in classrooms, transfixed and desperate for more information. Some visited the clergy and counselors the school had brought in. Others called local hospitals to find out how soon they could donate blood.

Some sections remained together and proceeded with introductions in somber sessions devoid of the cheering that characterizes CIM Week. But most sections broke up for the remainder of the day.

Many students needed the time to absorb the enormity of the tragedy. Some were not convinced by Honack's assurance that the events were real.
Clinton Kent '03 was among them. "At first I thought it was a really bad CIM Week joke that they do every year," he said. "An entirely inappropriate joke, but a joke."

The thought flashed in his mind that this might be a crisis management simulation, with sections being called upon to determine how best to save New York and Washington.

"I knew CIM Week was intense, and I thought it was part of the show-biz of it all," Kent says. "It literally happened half an hour into the presentations that morning; it was a perfect time for them to do something like this."

It wasn't until he called a local hospital to ask about donating blood and the operator referred to the "national tragedy" that Kent came fully to terms with the enormity of the situation.

Many other students found themselves in the same state of disbelief. "It was the first day of CIM Week, and the surroundings were so new," says Tracy Eckert '03. "It just didn't seem real."

Acceptance came as she stood on tiptoes in the student lounge to catch a glimpse of the collapsed twin towers on television. The sounds of muffled weeping filled the room.

Getting the news in London
Seven thousand miles away, 21 students in The Managers' Program had just arrived at London's Gatwick Airport from Barcelona.

The students were racing to make a connecting flight to Stockholm for the second leg of their Global Initiatives in Management trip to Europe. "Wow, two planes just went into the World Trade Center," the students overheard several airport workers saying.

"We had no idea what they meant," says faculty advisor Marc Ventresca, assistant professor of management and organizations. They quickly found out.

Several students with family and friends at or near the World Trade Center began trying to dial out of the airport. They couldn't get through. The group sought to remain calm and consider its options. Should they fly home immediately? Or continue on to Sweden?

The group decided to continue the trip, although students who wanted to return home were given the opportunity to do so. Soon that option was taken away as well, as Gatwick officials began to shut down the airport. "The group decided Stockholm would be a better place to be than a London hotel," Ventresca said.

When they arrived in Sweden, the group found itself the focus of compassion from strangers and GIM contacts alike.

"People kept coming up to us and saying, 'I'm so sorry,'" Ventresca says. "The Europeans very clearly seemed to identify with us. They have been the targets of terrorism too, and they understand the horror of it."

Facing a new world
By 2:30 p.m., Aragon had reached his sister, who told him that his mother had called her and that she had survived the attack. An exhausted Aragon accepted hugs from virtually the entire Student Affairs staff.

Checking his answering machine, Aragon picked up a frantic message from his mother, who reported that she was all right, but that she could not find his father. A later, calmer message relayed that both his parents were home, and that they were fine.

At 6 p.m., 90 percent of the first-year class gathered for dinner in the atrium. It was the only event on the day's original schedule that had not been canceled, but attendance was voluntary.

"We had all these new students who didn't know each other," Thee said. "It would not have been best to send them to an empty dorm room or apartment. You don't want to be alone on days like that."

Over dinner, the students shared their feelings about the day. "I thought it was a good way to handle it," says Eckert. "If we hadn't done that, I probably would have sat on my couch and cried all night."

CIM Week committee members wrestled with how to handle the rest of the week. Though some students felt the remaining activities should be canceled, the committee decided to retain as many of the events as possible.

Attendance at all events was deemed optional, and the mood was more subdued than in previous years. The students missed out on the first day's scavenger hunt and cheering war. A talent show scheduled for Friday evening was rescheduled for later in the weekend, so that students could attend an Evanston-wide candlelight vigil.

"We couldn't ignore what had happened," Thee says. "But this was our one shot at transferring the Kellogg culture to the incoming class. If it doesn't get done here, it doesn't happen."

The students channeled their concern over the Sept. 11 events into the planning of a benefit concert on Oct. 12. The $12,000 raised that night has been earmarked for scholarships for the five children of the three known Kellogg alumni killed in the attacks.

Kellogg would carry on. CIM Week would continue, the academic year would begin, and another generation of students would make their mark on the school. But many knew they would be graduating into a different world than the one they had inhabited thus far.

For them, their predecessors and for those who will follow, the strength and support of the Kellogg family will be more essential than ever.

"This is the time to stay united and not lose our spirit," Jain says. "Because the day we lose our spirit is the day we are defeated."

"In Memoriam" for those alumni lost in the attacks of Sept. 11

©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University