From the archives: After September 11 attacks, community gathered for support

Screenshot of School news story from 2001
A screenshot from the School's Harvard Public Health NOW online newsletter, September 21, 2001

From Harvard Public Health NOW, September 21, 2001:

HSPH Gathers for Support in Wake of Attacks

Just two days into a week of orientation events for new HSPH students, the school’s community found itself drawn together suddenly by terrorist attacks on Tuesday, September 11 in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania.

A “Welcome Address” Becomes Much More

Approximately 200 students gathered at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11 outside the Kresge cafeteria to listen to James Ware, dean for academic affairs, deliver an annual welcome address. Many of the attendees apparently knew nothing of the attacks that had started merely an hour before. Ware briefly described the events, eliciting gasps of surprise and shock from the audience. He then incorporated the tragedies into a larger discussion of the role and mission of HSPH and public health.

“Something like this does touch a school of public health,” said Ware. “We in public health believe that we’re part of one world and that we share this planet, its resources, and aspirations for the well-being of all peoples.”

He continued, “If this event proves to be what we think it is, it shows us that we are part of a world community, both in the most horrible and most promising ways, offering a challenge to us as a people.”

Ware also welcomed the students on behalf of Dean Barry Bloom, who was flying that morning to Washington, DC to attend a press conference as a member of the Institute of Medicine’s committee on stem cell research. (Dean Bloom arrived without incident.)

Following his comments on the morning’s attacks, Ware went on to describe public health and its relationship to medicine and its role in the Harvard community. He said that public health and medicine have a longstanding partnership, with public health focused on the well-being of populations and medicine focused on individual patients.

Prevention of disease–rather than its treatment–is another keystone of public health that differentiates it from medicine, he said. The two fields, however, complement each other, and he described how HSPH had fostered meaningful collaborations with Harvard Medical School, particularly in training physicians on undertaking clinical investigations.

Ware concluded his address by urging students to seek what inspires them. “Take the opportunity of your time at Harvard to find what gives you meaning,” he said, “and let’s all come together to make the world a better place.”

Forums for Expression

Still reeling from the morning’s attacks, several dozen HSPH students, faculty, and staff gathered outside of the Kresge cafeteria in the afternoon of September 11 to discuss their reactions. The Community Forum was organized by HSPH administration.

Read more

Read about a symposium on bioterrorism held at the School in October, 2001