At the beginning of the year, NSO Leader Nicole Yue (COL ’03) was looking forward to a new spirit in the campus community.

“It’s a new year; it’s a new school. It’s very exciting – more exciting than anything,” she said.

Then terrorist attacks brought life to a grinding halt Sept. 11, disrupting this spirit in a way that no one said they could have anticipated. After only two weeks on the Hilltop, many new students were still in the process of finding a place for themselves in the Georgetown community.

“I think that the attack came at the worst possible time for me,” Emily Matorin (COL ’05) said. “I was trying to settle in and get adjusted to my new situation and all of a sudden everything was turned upside down.”

“It threw me way off,” Jared Martillotti (COL ’05) said. “I didn’t get anything done for the next five days.”

New students were not only faced with the challenge of coming to terms with the cold reality of war, but doing so in an unfamiliar environment. Some students, like Cristina Corbin (COL ’04), a transfer student from George Washington University, sought refuge in a familiar setting. “I couldn’t go home to New York, so I went to GW, for the sole reason that it feels more like home,” she said.

Nonetheless, the majority of freshmen were not able to escape to more familiar settings. Students from the New York area were especially concerned.

“It was really hard to be far away from home, especially when home was where the attack had taken place,” Matorin said.

For many students, the aftermath of the attack marked a time for reflection. “I turned to my friends here, and to my family. I also went to prayer and reflected on my life in general,” Sofina Qureshi (COL ’05) said. “In a lot of ways it brought me closer to my friends here, and I began to realize how close we have become in such a short time.”

After the attack, freshmen joined together with other students, faculty and staff during vigils and other events held by the administration, deriving comfort and strength from spiritual guidance. “I really appreciated all the vigils and prayers, because they let you know that you weren’t alone in this community and that there were people to talk to and be there for you, if necessary,” said Samantha Reid (SFS ’05).

Reid said she discovered a new sense of community at Georgetown and also deepened friendships while coping with the crisis. “Everyone around me in the dorm was extremely supportive of one another,” she said.

“As time goes by, I have started to feel more and more a part of the community,” Matorin said. “Sometimes I still feel a little lost and overwhelmed, but everyone here is in the same situation. That makes it a little better.”

Other freshmen expressed concern over new security measures throughout the university in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Most accepted them as a necessary part of campus life in the wake of Sept. 11.

“I just have to get used to the increased security. It is not a problem, just one of the realities of life here at Georgetown in the aftermath of this tragedy,” Qureshi said.

Overall, students were mostly pleased with the university’s response to the attacks, with few exceptions. Some said it was difficult to study after the strikes.

“They really should have canceled some school. Every time I sat down to do work, something else would pop up on the TV,” Steven Long (COL ’05) said.

Despite the support of the administration and their fellow students, many are still finding it difficult to adapt to changes on a larger scale. “The biggest problem for me is that things aren’t really going to be normal again in this country for a while,” Matorin said.

Ultimately, students said the strong sense of tradition and community at Georgetown has helped many new students find productive ways to deal with the tragedy. “No one anticipated a crisis like this, so everybody is going to struggle,” Yue said.

“We know that this school will survive because it’s so strong, and not only will the students be able to go on with their lives, but still succeed in their classes, still push through.”

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