|2001 October - Vol.1 No.1||Law students publication, Law - University of Alberta, Canada|
Dean Lewis Klar
Faithful readers of this regular piece will know that my message is usually very up-beat and enthusiastic. I take the opportunity to let you in on the great things that have been happening at the Faculty of Law, the many successes of our students and faculty members alike.
The first column is always one of the most positive. The new students will have just arrived bringing with them their excitement for what lies ahead, and raring to go. The upper years come back relaxed from their summer breaks and confident that the worse is behind them - smooth sailing from here. Exams and grading disputes are thankfully not yet part of the law school scene. Edmontons Fall is gorgeous, most of the summer mosquitoes having died. September is a month of getting back together with old friends, social events, and renewal. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and religious groups other holidays which express gratitude for the harvest and for all of our blessings.
This year however there was an unexpected shock. September 11, 2001. On that day, the world woke up to the realization that underneath the veneer of economic prosperity, technological wizadry, and scientific miracles, the global village was in very serious trouble. Suddenly the topics which I usually discuss in this column did not seem very important.
The events themselves were horrific. Thousands of innocent people died in terrorist attacks executed in a manner which was unimaginable. The sight of aeroplanes being deliberately crashed into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and the ensuing total collapse of the twin towers is something that I will never forget. Only now, a full three weeks after the events, is it beginning to sink in that each of the victims was a real person, who left families and friends behind, as the funerals are being held and the bereaved are telling their individual stories of what they lost on September 11.
I do not know about you, but after the initial days of shock, my mood became one of malaise and sadness. Although most television networks have now resumed normal broadcasting I still am drawn to watching those, like CNN, whose entire broadcast programming is devoted to what has been dubbed "The Attack on America". For some reason I must watch what is going on, and look at the same documentaries about the Taliban and Afghanistan over and over.
It is now the uncertainty as to what will come next which overwhelms me. Never before have I felt this way. The Cuban Missile Crisis comes close but I was much younger and the crisis was over quite quickly. Living in Montreal during the FLQ crisis also was terrifying, but it lasted only a short while.
I have often thought how fortunate my generation has been. We who were born after the Second World War in Canada have known virtually nothing but peace and prosperity at home. While wars, mass killings, genocide, poverty, illness, and hunger have been the realities for many millions of people in other places, for most of us in Canada, this has not been our plight, and maybe to some of us, not even our problem.
September 11, 2001 changed that. If 6,000 people can be exterminated in the World Trade Centre in New York in a few short minutes, Canadians can die in similar ways or in other ways. The war is no longer overseas. It is everywhere.
September 11, 2001 also made me realize, if I hadnt before, how interdependent we in the world are. What happens in Afghanistan, the Middle East, in Europe, or anywhere else in the world matters.
The world is on the brink of something. The hopeful side of me says that despite the enormity of the tragedy good can come out of it. There seems to be a universal determination to unite to combat terrorism. Everyone has woken up. There are many who argue that we must now look to the root causes of terrorism and do something about them. Certainly I would not disagree with that, although I vehemently reject any notion that what happened on September 11, 2001 can be excused or justified by any "root cause."
September 11 was also a reminder to me of the importance of a knowledge of law, history, and other social sciences to the worlds future. Let us as a law school community, with all of our diversity and different points of view, stick together and support each other during the times ahead. We have a lot to learn and a lot to offer.
Happy Thanksgiving.© 2001 Dean Lewis Klar