Nicolas Cholula grew up in Orange County, Calif., where he first picked up a film camera while working at a thrift store and quickly fell in love with photography. Nicolas chased his passion into community college, where he took his first classes in photography. Since then, Nicolas has become most interested in telling stories from his community and photographing current events. He is currently working toward his Bachelor of Arts in Photojournalism at San Francisco State University and works as the Multimedia Editor for the Golden Gate Xpress.
20 Years Later, Reflections on 9/11
September 11, 2021
Saturday marks the 20-year anniversary of 9/11, when following the hijacking of four planes, 2,977 people were killed, including over 400 first responders.
On September 11, 2001, classes on SF State’s campus were cancelled but resumed the next day, as did all universities within the California State University system. The following day, SF State’s then-President Robert A. Corrigan addressed a gathering of a couple hundred people on campus. Though it’s been 20 years, for much of SF State’s community the date remains markedly in people’s memory.
“Our continued sense of community will be the heart of our victory over terrorism,” said Corrigan after reading a letter from the Muslim Student Association expressing sympathy for victims of the attacks. “We are going to continue in the difficult times ahead to embody the spirit of unity and understanding that is the very best of San Francisco State.”
We knew that it wouldn’t just be those individuals who are responsible that be held accountable, but Muslims around the world would pay a price.
— Jasmin Zine
Following the attacks there was increased interest in Middle Eastern, Islamic and Arab studies at SF State, which contributed to the development and eventual formation of the Middle Eastern and Islamic studies minor program in 2007 and later the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas minor in 2015.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics reported in 2019, over 81% of SF State’s undergraduate students were under 25 years old. Many students on SF State’s campus today were elementary school age or younger on September 11, 2001 and have little memory of the actual event.
LISTEN: SF State student Ben Lieberman recalls the first time he learned about 9/11 in school. (Marlyn Sanchez Nol / Golden Gate Xpress)
Others who were older at the time of the event have memories of shock and horror.
The People’s Forum, a New York City cultural center, hosted a live streamed roundtable discussion, partly organized by SF State professor Rabab Abdulhadi of the AMED Studies program, gathering educators and activists to discuss the implications 9/11 continues to have on Muslims and Arabs both living in the U.S. and in other countries.
Jasmin Zine, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, recalled the day of the attacks during the forum. She described her immediate reaction as one of dread and only hoping that those responsible for the attacks were not Muslim.
“We knew that it wouldn’t just be those individuals who are responsible that be held accountable, but Muslims around the world would pay a price,” Zine said during the livestream.
Following the week of the attacks, Zine remembers not leaving her house fearing that she may become victim to a hate crime, especially as being a woman who wore a hijab.
LISTEN: SF State Disability Programs and Resource Center staff Daniel Lebrija reflects on being a college student at the time of the attacks. (Albert Serna Jr. / Golden Gate Xpress)
Fahd Ahmed, executive director of Desis Rising Up and Moving, a New York City based organization, shared his experience as a detainee visitation coordinator immediately following 9/11. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, in the eleven months following 9/11, 762 people were detained for having suspected ties to the attack.
The ACLU describes these arrests as being done “indiscriminately and haphazardly.” Some detainees were denied communication with family and had their release delayed though being cleared. Over a quarter of investigations resulting in clearance took longer than three months.
President Biden visited the three sites of the attacks today, however did not deliver any official remarks. In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at the memorial site of Flight 93’s crash, both Vice President Kamala Harris and former President George W. Bush gave speeches.
“On this 20th anniversary, on this solemn day of remembrance, we must challenge ourselves to, yes, look back,” Harris said.