Ten years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some people still have a fear of flying. But former University President James Duderstadt isn’t one of them. In fact, he flew to New York City just a few days after the attacks.
In 2001, Duderstadt — who was the University’s president from 1988 to 1996 — was serving on the board of directors of information technology company Unisys. The company had scheduled a board meeting in Manhattan the weekend following the tragedy and they decided to proceed with it.
“Our board believed it was very important not to cancel the meeting to convey a sense of confidence in the ability of New York City to recover from this shock,” Duderstadt wrote in an e-mail interview.
But the passengers on the flight to New York’s LaGuardia Airport were sparse, as Duderstadt was only one of two people on the plane.
“There were only a couple of passengers on my 757, along with the flight crew. Our final approach into LaGuardia took us right up the river by the World Trade Center. It was a very strange experience,” Duderstadt wrote, adding that he took a photo of Ground Zero from the plane.
When the first plane crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, Duderstadt was in his office and, like many people across the country on that day, watched on television the second plane crash and the subsequent collapse of the towers.
“Throughout the day I remember the urgency, the tragedy and the constant speculation about other threats —some real, many imagined,” Duderstadt wrote.
In addition to the obvious monumental impact the attacks had on the nation, Duderstadt noted that 9/11 also affected the University. Duderstadt said he canceled a University alumni trip to Kenya that was supposed to take place three weeks later. He wrote that he and other participants were concerned for the alumni’s safety since there was a possibility of “political disruption” around the world if the United States were to invade Afghanistan.
“Clearly the attack had a major impact on America just as it had on the University,” Duderstadt wrote. “It also had an impact on my own activities, which have shifted to a more active role in national security activities since 2001.”