The controversial Studium Generale lecture about 9/11 surprised Delta International Editor Molly Quell. Not for the opinion of conspiracy theorist Richard Gage but for the podium a prestigious university like TU Delft offered.
What I remember most about September 11, 2001 is the fear.
There were security guards telling us to take off our shoes and run. Cell towers overwhelmed with the number of people trying to make contact. I remember the terror, the choking panic I felt when I realized I couldn't even contact my own father.
All of it came flooding back to me when I listened to Richard Gage's two hour lecture about what he claims really happened that day. He only focused on the Twin Towers and WT7 during his talk, but there were other planes that crashed that day.
There was Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon after taking off from Dulles Airport. The airport I used every time I travelled home. There was also Flight 93, which was brought down by passengers in Pennsylvania who were aware of what was unfolding on the ground. That flight was destined for the White House or Capitol Building, mere blocks from where I was that morning.
Gage's narrow-minded focus was but a small part of what was troubling about his lecture. As I sat in the audience, listening to him talk and feeling the memory of that fear well up in my chest, I stared at blue TU Delft letters emblazoned across the back of the stage and wondered how a university, a technical university no less, could allow someone like Gage to present his ideas unchallenged. According to the head of Studium Generale, the independent organisation which hosted this lecture, Coen Vermeeren, he was unable to locate a professor who was either available, with the “sufficient expertise" to rebut Gage's claims. Apparently, the entire faculties of civil engineering and architecture were on vacation.
I have no problem with Gage being allowed to speak. I find his ideas repugnant, but I believe in his right to express them. What I don't believe in is a prestigious, technical university giving a platform to repeatedly disproven conspiracy theories without offering a single rebuttal.
I didn't have any idea at the time how much the events of that day would shape my life. From the inconsequential inability to buy plane tickets at the airport on the day of a flight to the thousands of lives lost in the subsequent wars, including my college boyfriend who was killed in Iraq.
Sadly, my story is far from unique. The events of September 11, 2001 irrevocably shaped our world, and many people -- too many people -- bear the invisible scars of that old fear. We deserved better than to listened to Gage's views unchallenged.
Molly Quell, editor international pages Delta