With the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks come and gone, Fort Hays State University continues to help victims with the healing process by awarding 23 students the first 9-11 Scholarships.
After the tragic events of that day, people everywhere were grief stricken and consumed by fear. At that time a systems analyst at the Pentagon, Roxanne Smith, was taking the FHSU Virtual College class "Death and Dying."
"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, Rose Arnhold, associate professor of sociology at FHSU, 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.
By April of 2002, a scholarship program was established and applications were already being received. People from around the United States applied for the scholarship and shared their stories:
"I was a first responder at the Pentagon that day and maybe this course will help me deal with the helplessness felt at not being able to save, help and assist more patients that day."
"I was typing at my computer that day when I saw the airliner fly past my window of the Navy Annex and into the Pentagon. Our building was immediately evacuated and I had great difficulty locating the personnel assigned to me and assuring their safety and transportation home. Military people at work expect a senior Navy officer to 'get over it' much faster than I find myself able to."
"I am from NYC. Growing up on clear nights I could see the tops of the towers from my parents' house. I am currently stationed in D.C. and I was supposed to go to the Pentagon that fateful day. I stopped to call my mom to find out if my dad was alright. I knew he worked at the World Trade Center, but wasn't sure where and that is when the plane hit the Pentagon. I didn't find out how close I was to losing my dad or myself until much later. My father was working with Amex in No. 7 in the World Trade Center and didn't leave the building until 20 minutes before the first collapse."
After the first applications were received, the 9-11 Scholarship Fund was shrinking fast and more people were interested in the class. The USA Funds organization heard of the scholarship and donated $3,000 to the 9-11 Scholarship Fund, allowing FHSU to award several more scholarships.
"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," said Gould. "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."
Although a year has already passed since Sept. 11, many are still trying to deal with grief and complete the healing process and FHSU will continue to help with this process through education.
"The U.S. is going through a revolution in the way that we view death," said Arnhold. "Helping people understand death and dying and offering scholarships to the victims of 9-11 is FHSU's way of helping America recover and we will continue to help."
To donate money for FHSU's 9-11 Scholarship Fund or to apply for the scholarship, visit the Web site at www.fhsu.edu/911 or contact the FHSU Office of Endowment by phone at (785) 628-5565.