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  • Fighting Intolerance Together

          A Letter from Dr. Kurt Landgraf, President,
    Washington College, Chestertown, MD

         Following is a letter by Washington College President Dr. Kurt Landgraf to students and faculty. I believe it expresses a fundamental understanding of the extensive impact mass shootings have on individuals and communities and provides straightforward advice and support to help people move forward. It is reprinted here with the permission of Dr. Landgraf.—Chuck Cascio

     Dear Members of the Washington College Community,


         Last week, mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed 50 people and injured 40 more. Not unlike the horrific killings of 11 innocent people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last fall, and the murder of nine people at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston nearly four years ago, these reprehensible crimes have at their core one fundamental commonality—an amoral and abhorrent intolerance of people’s religious beliefs and cultural traditions. 


    Aerial view of Washington College, Chestertown, MD.

         None of us can witness or read about these tragedies without feeling fear, anger, and heartbreak. And while it may provide some solace when I write to you expressing my sorrow and shock, there are too many of these horrible examples of intolerance and hate to respond to every one. Sometimes, it’s hard not to feel helpless.


         Yet, while messages like this can’t solve the world’s problems, they can galvanize us, as a community of students, educators, colleagues, neighbors, and friends, to pull together as one to fight intolerance whenever and wherever we encounter it. If ever there was a time to “think globally and act locally,” this is it. Every day, we must reaffirm our commitment to tolerance and to working together to find solutions to the very real presence of intolerance, bigotry, and prejudice within our own community. 


         Only in this way can our voices rise above the despicable clamor of violence, hatred, and intolerance that struggles to hold sway in so many places across this world.


         Note: The piece then lists contact information and locations for anyone at the college or local community who feels they—or someone they know—may need support or counseling.

    Copyright: Kurt M. Landgraf, Washington College

    Full Disclosure: Kurt Landgraf was my college roommate.--Chuck Cascio




    Chuck Cascio


         That morning is etched forever in our memories. 

         The first report: A plane has crashed into a building at the World Trade Center. The immediate reaction: This sad, tragic accident will cost countless lives. 

         And then the second plane hits. Another realization: This is not an accident. This is an attack. This is terrorism inflicted upon innocent people in the airplanes and inside two beautiful buildings that highlight the New York Skyline. 

         And then the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

         How did you react when you heard? What did you say? What were you doing? 

         My sister and her husband, living in TriBeca just blocks away from the smoldering buildings, evacuated their residence and ran uptown amid the swarm of people, the screams, the ashes, the horrified confusion. 


         I was in the midst of opening a meeting of my new team in my Princeton, NJ, office, when the meeting was interrupted by an associate who called me aside and tearfully told me of the plane crashes, of the World Trade Center buildings aflame, of people jumping out of windows in desperate attempts to be "saved."     

         I stopped the meeting. My new team and I went to a room where we watched and gasped in disbelief at the horrors unfolding on television. 

         The unthinkable. The sense of helplessness. The fear I felt about being unable to reach my sister and her husband whose phones were not working, only to find out later that they were safe. I telephoned my wife and other family members just miles from the flaming Pentagon, and heard from others who were concerned about my own safety. 

         Six weeks after the attacks, my wife and I visited the smoldering space in New York where the Towers once stood. Vast emptiness. Soot still drifting. Ash still smothering the streets and shops, small and large alike. 

          Some things we just do not forget. We hope we learn from those things. 

         What did we learn from September 11, 2001? The instinctive search for the safety of family. The horrifying awareness of the innocent death of others. The sense that we must take steps to ensure our own safety, the safety of those we love, and the safety of strangers. We learned that heroism is real. And we know that deep pain still lingers for many people directly affected by that day. 

         So we should consider the lessons of 9/11 as more than memories. We should act upon those lessons whenever we see those memories emerging again in reality, albeit in different forms both large and small. By doing so, our memories emerge as active lessons...lessons that will help bring a positive meaning to that tragic day.


    (Feel free to email me with your thoughts: chuckwrites@yahoo.comIf you would like to submit a blog piece of your for possible publication on “Blog On!” please query me at the same email address. No work that you submit will be posted without your prior approval, and you will retain all copyright ownership. Submission of query and/or submission of a piece for consideration is NOT a guarantee of publication.)

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.