September 13, 2021
Dr. Reza Mansoor stood at a podium in the gym of the Arthur Sheriff Field House, looking out to the 11th-grade class sitting on the bleachers.
A cardiologist, as well as president of the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford and the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, Mansoor had just asked the students if they could define the word “Jihad.” When one student answered “Holy war,” Mansoor smiled.
“That’s the answer I was looking for, because it is completely wrong,” Mansoor responded. “The word jihad is used synonymously with terrorism. The literal translation of the word jihad means ‘to struggle’ and it has, in the Quran, two levels of struggle: as an individual to struggle to be your best as a human being using the moral and ethical values to be the best person you can be … and a societal struggle to stand up against oppression and injustice in the world.”
Mansoor was one of three speakers who addressed the Cheshire Academy community as part of the Voices of 9/11 speaker program, held on Thursday, Sept. 9. Hosted by CA and spearheaded by Jen Dillon, chair of the History & Social Sciences Department and sustainability coordinator, the speakers spoke deeply about the impact the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath had on them and the organizations for which they work.
The other speakers were Ann O’Brien, director of community engagement with the Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services, and Lt. Col. Jason Hearn, a 24-year veteran with the U.S. Army who served three tours abroad. O’Brien reflected on the month of August in Afghanistan, which saw the resurgence of the Taliban and countless refugees fleeing the country. She urged the students to be supportive if families from Afghanistan find residence in their neighborhoods, towns, and cities, and to offer a helping hand for those trying to establish a home in a new country.
Hearn reflected on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, recalling that he, his father, and an electrician were working on his house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They overheard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the building at 1 Word Trade Center in New York City, but thought nothing beyond it being a tragic accident. Later, Hearn ran to the store, where he again heard on the radio that another plane had crashed into 2 World Trade Center. When he returned home, he set a TV up and turned on the news.
“The three of us just kind of stood there with our jaws open, in shock about what had happened,” Hearn explained, “because by that time the third plane hit the Pentagon and the fourth plane went down in Shanksville (Pennsylvania), which is 120 miles from where we were standing.”
The Voices of 9/11 was one of many programs put on over the course of four days. On Wednesday, Sept. 8, a group of students went to the 9/11 Memorial at Sherwood Island to complete a beautification project. On Friday, Sept. 10, all students participated in the National Day of Service, giving back to the local community and area organizations. Students continued their service on Saturday, Sept. 11 by volunteering at the Cheshire Fall Festival, an annual fall fair and marketplace held close by the CA campus.
To see more photos from the week’s events, visit our Flickr gallery.