HAYS, KS -- Roxanne Smith left for vacation expecting to return feeling refreshed and relaxed. Instead, the systems analyst at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, returned to find that her office had been destroyed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
"I lost 27 good friends, both Navy and civilian, in the destruction. There is such a sadness that I carry on a daily basis," Smith said.
While on vacation, Smith had been reading the book Tuesdays with Morrie, which was assigned to supplement a Fort Hays State University videotape course she started in August called "Death and Dying."
Several states away, Rose Arnhold, associate professor of sociology at Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS, was teaching Smith's course. Smith e-mailed Arnhold to tell her that she would not be able to complete the assignments on time and would need to drop the course.
"I felt very strongly that staying in the course would be important to her grieving process, so I told her if she stayed in the course I would give her up to a year to complete it," Arnhold said.
Smith agreed to stay and was later very grateful that she did.
"This course gave me another perspective and outlook on how I viewed death," Smith said. "My instructor brought a sense of peace and added calmness on what had taken place here at my workplace."
"The efforts put forth by the outstanding staff members are above and beyond the norm in helping their students," said Smith. "I am grateful to have had the staff of Fort Hays State behind me during an overwhelming time of tragedy. Words can't express how much taking the class 'Death and Dying' has helped me in my healing process.
As a result of Smith's testimonial to the benefits of the course, Arnhold suggested that a special fund be established so that the course could be offered free of charge to those directly impacted by the events of Sept. 11. FHSU Provost Larry Gould agreed.
"Colleges and universities can play an integral role in the healing process. We plan to offer the course through this special arrangement for as long as there is need," he said.
The $300 tuition cost will be paid out of the fund and the only expense to the student will be for books, which cost between $95 and $115 depending on whether used books are available.
"Throughout the aftermath of the 9-11 tragedy, educators have been asked to help students deal with confusion, fear, anger and, for many, their increased sense of vulnerability. It may be difficult being a teacher at any time, but we have a special responsibility during times like these and we should not be afraid to reach out and make a difference in how people feel about themselves and others," said Gould.
To find out more about this free course visit http://www.fhsu.edu/911/. Preference will be given to those directly impacted by the events of 9-11, but everyone is welcome to apply for the distance education course.