CCE hosts “9/11: Twenty Years Later”


Ayman Ishimwe

U.S. Rep Elissa Slotkin, former U.S. Rep Mike Rogers and Fox 2 News anchor Roop Raj at the 9/11: Twenty Years Later panel discussion on Sept. 9.

20 years after the tragic and life-altering terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) at Oakland University hosted “9/11: Twenty Years Later” on Thursday, Sept. 9. The panel discussion was moderated by Fox 2 News anchor Roop Raj, with U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin and former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers offering their insight.

The night began with a welcome from CCE Director and Professor of Political Science, David Dulio — followed by a message from President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz.

“As you know, the CCE has titled this event: toward a more perfect union,” Pescovitz said. “As I thought about this, I realized many of our students weren’t even alive 20 years ago — when 9/11 happened. I do think this will be a very important evening as we discuss what happened on 9/11.”

Prior to the panel discussion start, Professor Dulio touched on civil discourse.

“This conversation takes place at a time of great political polarization, everyone knows that,” he said. “But let’s remember — in the wake of 9/11 — our nation was united. You may not agree with everything our guests say, but that doesn’t mean they’re the enemy.”

To begin the discussion, Raj asked both Rep. Slotkin and former Rep. Rogers where they were on 9/11, and what they can remember about that day.

Rep. Slotkin mentioned she was in New York City on her second day of graduate school. She walked out and a colleague of hers mentioned a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

“At Columbia, we huddled 400 students around one television — we were watching local TV and started [watching] people literally jumping from the buildings,” she said. “Then, we just started organizing. It was a moment that galvanized the students — we thought there’d be a lot of wounded, so we organized a blood drive and started donating blood, [volunteering at local hospitals]…It was an experience unlike any other and [it] ultimately changed my life.”

Further on in the panel, Raj asked the panelists what they learned amidst 9/11, and how much better/safer America is now. Rep. Rogers said he believes extremism will be a problem moving forward.

“Everywhere extremism can foster within the limits of freedom of movement, freedom to finance, freedom to recruit, freedom to train — we are in trouble,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are still spots in the world that do that.”

Rep. Rogers said we missed “the big sweep” leading up to 9/11.

“If you think about it, in 1993, this same terrorist organization hit the World Trade Center,” he said.  “Their math wasn’t good — they tried to do it at the bottom. The same terrorist organization killed 200 people by attacking the U.S. Embassy in Kenya. In 2000, they attacked the U.S.S. Cole. So, they were committed to their path of trying to get to the U.S.”

Topics also spanned the Afghanistan withdrawal and changes in Homeland Security post 9/11. At the end of the event, questions were taken from the in-person audience and/or those watching from home.

Closing thoughts from both Rep. Slotkin and Rep. Rogers centered around coming together, and not looking at one another as enemies.

“We’re not going to all agree — we don’t,” Rep. Slotkin said. “When we start looking at a fellow American as an enemy, as someone we don’t have empathy for, we have a real problem. That empathy we felt for each other in the days and weeks after 9/11, we’re very far from that spirit. If we could figure out a way to harness that, and try to be decent, I think we’d go a long way.”

For more information on the CCE and upcoming events, visit their homepage on the OU website.