Dr. Marijo Russel-O'Grady
Pace University
Dean of Students

Cristina DeLuca

Cristina: This is Cristina DeLuca interviewing Dean for Students, Marijo Russell-O’Grady.

Marijo: This is Marijo-Russell-O’Grady, Dean for Students, New York City campus.

Cristina: Okay, um, for the first question, I just pretty much want to uh...an introduction. If you could just tell me a little bit about your background—where you're from, where you grew up, your parents.

Marijo: I grew up in Western New York. In a town called Sherman, which is about 75 miles south of Buffalo or about 20 minutes from Erie, Pennsylvania. A very, very, very small rural town, the Amish still live there, uh, the hitching posts from the 1800s are still there, there's no stoplights, one school K through 12.

Cristina: Oh, wow how many people?

Marijo: There’s about four-hundred people in about a 25 mile radius in the whole town. So I went to school with the same 42 people I went to kindergarten with.  Most people who left, very few went to college, many went in the military as an option to get out, and many went to their family farms. While I was not a farmer kid, I lived in town but there was a farm, a cow field, next to my house in town, So it was very, very small. I’m one of four daughters, um, I went to Buffalo State for my undergrad and grad in art education with a concentration in art therapy.

Cristina: Oh, wow.

Marijo: And then I did a lot of art therapy and a lot of work with special needs populations, but as an undergrad I was an RA, no surprise—

Cristina: No surprise.

Marijo: From my sophomore to my senior year and then I was a graduate assistant and ran a residence hall of 200 people as a grad student.

Cristina: Oh, wow.

Marijo: And when I graduated there weren't jobs for art therapists, they'd never really heard of them except for in New York City, urn, so I decided that I was probably better working with students than I was as an art teacher and I stayed in the field. And so I worked as a residence director at a college in the Berkshires, and then to moved to Rivier College to be the assistant---the director of student activities, assistant director of residents. And then I went to NYU and I ran a building of 1,200 residents—

Cristina: Which building was it?

Marijo: Third North.

Cristina: I've been there.

Marijo: I love Third North, I love Third North.

Cristina: Yeah.

Marijo: And then I went on my honeymoon and came back and got promoted to the Central Office of Housing where I was the coordinator of residential student development, there 9 and a half years at NYU working on my doctorate in higher education administration focusing on underrepresented students at a predominately white institution. Came here in June of '98 as Dean for Students, and finished my 700-page dissertation, uh, in 1999 and got my doctorate degree.

Cristina: Wow.

Marijo: Yeah.

Cristina: Wow, okay, urn, what is your background and what did your parents do for a living?

Marijo: My mother, uh, was a home economics teacher.

Cristina: Oh wow, I remember my home economics teacher.

Marijo: And so I could cook and clean and sew and all those things, but my mother, um, was probably a fortunate person that she went to college. She went to Buffalo State and I went to Buffalo State. When I got my Ph.D., I found out that my grandmother had also gone to Buffalo Normal School, which was Buffalo State. So I am a third generation.

Cristina: Buff State.

Marijo: Buff State. Uh, my father was a small-town bank teller and got his Associate's degree at Jamestown Business College, went into the army and was in Japan after the war, the Korean War, that is. And he came back and became a small-town banker and has been that ever since.

Cristina: Oh okay. Your family still lives—

Marijo: My parents both live there, my oldest sister is vice president of nursing at a hospital in New Jersey, my other sister, the number 2 sister, is a reading specialist in Buffalo, my—then there's me, and then my little sister is an architect in California.

Cristina: Wow, pretty successful family.

Marijo: Education was important.

Cristina: Urn, yeah it seems so, went to college.  Um, let's see. So you were mostly interested in art in school?

Marijo: Yeah I was in—well, I was mostly interested in helping people, primarily. And I was always inclined to creativity and artistic and sort of innovative kind of ways, and so I kind of tracked into the art field. And while I've always in my life felt I have the best of both worlds because I was able to be artistic and have those artistic tendencies, and yet then I was always able to help people, and so then it just made sense that I could still help people, only those people were students.

Cristina: Right.

Marijo: And then have just carried that throughout.

Cristina: Those two are usually mutually exclusive.

Marijo: Yes. And I've always, I still paint when I have time and other kinds of things.

Cristina: Oh that’s great.

Marijo: So...this right behind me is on of mine. (points to tapestry).

Cristina: Oh, on fabric.

Marijo: On batik, on silk.

Cristina: Oh wow.

Marijo: I did a lot of textile design work. And my husband is a painter, he works at Pratt.

Cristina: Oh, okay. So the art has kind of taken over.

Marijo: Yeah.

Cristina: That’s great! So where do you live now?

Marijo: I live downtown in lower Manhattan.

Cristina: On John?

Marijo: On John.

Cristina: Okay.

Marijo: And I am raising my son to be globally aware, and he can probably tour you through any museum in this city better than a tour guide.

Cristina: How old is your son?

Marijo: Six.

Cristina: Oh wow.

Marijo: Yes.

Cristina: That's cool.

Marijo: And his teachers even from pre-K said he's very socially and morally conscious.

Cristina: That's a good thing.

Marijo: I have a very good boy.

Cristina: That's good. Um, so what is your job description here exactly?

Marijo: I am the chief student advocate for students. I oversee the areas of Student Development and Campus Activities, Housing and Residential Life, um, that's 1,400 of the 8,500 students I have in New York, um, counseling which includes group, individual, crisis work, disabilities, wellness outreach, alcohol and other drugs. I also oversee Multicultural Affairs, as well as all the discipline and judicial, and work in partnership with all of my peers and service offices to make this a better place for students.

Cristina: Wow. You've done this before?

Marijo: Just a little.

Cristina: So who do you work for directly in the chain of command?

Marijo: My supervisor is Damita Killian, Vice-President for Student Affairs who reports directly to the provost.

Cristina: And people who report directly for you are? Like campus activities..?

Marijo: My direct reports? Like the directors'?

Cristina: Yeah.

Marijo: David Clarke, Richard Shaddick, Denise Santiago, right now Jen Gray but will be Patrick Roger Gordon. Those are my direct, director reports. And then all the staff. Them too.

Cristina: Very funny. So it's a lot.

Marijo: Yeah.

Cristina: Briefly, what would you say you like most about your job and dislike most about your job?

Marijo: I like that it’s different every day, that I learn something every day, that the students here are amazing and incredible and just a wealth of just energy and resources and intellectual ideas, and so I love that and I feel like it makes my work so...that's the best part, is the students. The tough part I think is that it's um, a lot of work. Um, that there isn't really any down time, ever. Um, that there is a lot of sort of emotional stuff when you know, like I hear like as the chief student advocate you know, students having problems whether at home or at school, in the classroom. It's a lot of emotional stuff beyond when they actually get into trouble and they're in the disciplinary process. So I try— you know people come to me with very, very, very intensely personal things, and really trying to help them find the resources or find their way or be the person that they want to be. So I find I have a lot of opportunity for educational moments, um, which are kind of nice. I had one the other day, someone who didn't believe that someone who is recently in the news could effectively represent their school's issues as a rep of that school. And I said listen, I said, regardless, you know everyone has opinions and everyone has the right of opinions and that's what, you know, this is the best place for that, there’s opinions that you can hear, and in the world everyone has opinions. Just because someone has opinions, you have opinions, I have opinions, doesn't mean a person who has opinions, whether they are public or not public, can't represent the needs of others. So there's moments throughout the day where it's like, wow—

Cristina: So you're like a mediator.

Marijo: Kind of, yeah. I'm a mom, I'm an administrator, I’m a mediator...

Cristina: A coach.

Marijo: I'm a coach, I'm an advice giver, I'm somebody they lean on. You know, it's being the mom and the dad. Not that I mother them or want to treat them like children but sometimes just in the day sometimes students just need an adult.

Cristina: Yeah, sure.

M: Okay.

Cristina: Um, so you mentioned how there’s rarely any down time. Let's take that and sort of move into September 11th.

M: Sure.

Cristina: Um, I just as descriptively as possible if you could just describe maybe even the night before, the day...

Marijo: Actually, the weekend before because I live down here, my son was one and a half at the time, so we always went over to Washington Park and what have you and I remember him playing around the fountain that weekend before, that Sunday, it was a beautiful day. And um, I always get here early, you know just after 8 um, because it's quiet at work. And I remember coming to work that day and thinking my God what a gorgeous day it is, just beautiful, look at those clouds. There's not a cloud in the sky. And I remember walking up Beekman, going to the Beekman deli, getting my coffee, and sitting behind my desk there at the time and I remember at that time Jeff  Harter was the interim V.P. it was in-between Philly Mantella and finding Darnita Killian...

Cristina: Oh, okay.

M: So Jeff Harter was, um, had called me and I was sitting over there but I was looking out the window because I like to look out the window, I like light, like heat—

Cristina: This window? (motions to window)

Marijo: Here (points to exact window). So I was sitting, my desk was right in front of there (the window) where the couch is but I spun around and had my feet up on the ledge looking out, talking with him. And I said, gee, what is that noise? And I turned around and I looked and this plane was going right by the window...

Cristina: You saw the plane?

Marijo: Yes. So at first I heard the noise and I said, what is that noise, and Jeff is like, what? And I looked out and I go, Jeff, there's a plane (gasps a few times) and then I said, holy shit. I got to go. I said even though I saw it go by I saw it pass Woolworth, I saw and felt the buildings shake upon impact, and could see it, I said to Jeff, holy shit, I think there's been a bomb.

Cristina: Oh yeah.

Marijo: I see all these people running all over the streets, I got to go (makes the motion of hanging up a phone). So I think cognitively I couldn't piece together what I saw, it was unimaginable. And then it's kind of funny because the day kind of hangs like a movie for me. Kind of outside myself and then sometimes I feel like come into the movie. And um, I remember going downstairs and seeing Rob Amin, a former student, and he was crying. And he was kind of a tough guy. And I was like, oh Rob, are you alright? And he was just a mess. And I looked and the building's on fire and you're seeing people out on the window ledges and you're seeing people running for their life. And I said, alright, and people who are out in the front of 41 out here, I said, and I tried to use my phone and I go, what's wrong with this phone? And I'm like, what's wrong with this phone?! (picks up cell phone and shakes it) cause I was supposed to go to a board of trustee meeting in midtown cause that's where all the executives were and I was going, I'm going to be late. Didn't work. So I said to everyone in the front, get to the other building. Get back and go to the other building and then I came in here. And I said I think we should close this building, I think we should close this building. And I'm not sure that they knew what was happening and I hadn't gotten the order from above yet either so I came up here and I said to everyone, get into cover, get out of here. Meet in our meeting spot, now. Everybody kind of got up, I said get everybody on these floors out and I came here and I called my mother and I said, I am fine, because this phone works (picks up receiver of landline in the office) I'm fine, I can't talk, will talk to you later. Called my husband, I'm fine, I called my babysitter, they're fine. Called my mother-in-law, they're fine, can't talk, slam (hangs up phone). So I made my, my babysitter, my husband (slams hand on desk and trills off) and then I'm out. And so I went out and I went to the other building and told people to get inside, get inside, go into One Pace Plaza don't stay out here. Cause there's just so many people running. Just running, chaos. And I'm not sure we all knew what had happened even though we were sitting there looking at it. And then I went to security, and the minute I got to security people were in panic. And people were asking for the masks and people were calling, are we still having classes? And the phones were going off the hook, and people wanted masks and I'm like, listen. Buildings and grounds had already turned off the exhaust so we weren't bringing in the bad stuff. And then I said okay fine lets, and I went right to my protocol head, I can't think now about it (hangs hand on desk) I have to do, just, the job. And so, was with Richie Abbinanti, I don't remember at that point who else was there besides like Mr. Nurse. One or the security coordinators, some of those guys, and we said, people shouldn't go out there in that, we don't know what's out there. If they leave they have to tell us where they're going otherwise we'll have no way of controlling who's here and who's not. Mind you, Cristina, it's our first Tuesday. First Tuesday class. Residence halls had just checked in. So we always do what we call a count, who’s really here? So the RA's go around, they checked in, they didn't check in, we hadn't done that yet. So we really didn't know who was here, who wasn't here, except for hand checking the key check-in signs. You know like when you check in there's a check, they got their key, they got their stuff, they got their stuff...

Cristina: Right.

Marijo: Hadn't been put in anything. So, who is here? Really?

Cristina: Where were you? At the Maria's Tower security desk area?

Marijo: Yes. Yes. Right at the front. And we were giving out water and masks and we said nobody can go. If they go they have to tell us where they are going. Then we got people into the Schimmel, into the gym, into the caf, and I remember large crowds, trying to get people into the lower floors. Large crowds. In the gym there was a rumor started that there was a gas leak in there so people started to shove like the start of a panic of a trample, and we said no. Get the air horns out. There is no gas here. We don't have gas. We're okay. And then staff started coming and they would give out free food. You know, counseling was dishing ice cream and food and just getting people food. Um, time is a problem for me that day. Accounting for time.

Cristina: Sure.

Marijo: I didn't even know about the Pentagon and Pennsylvania until 5 days later.

Cristina: Oh really?

Marijo: I had no idea. Um, so we got people to find out where we were, we fed people, um, got the Tower taken care of and I remember me and Caputo, Richard Abbinanti, Cindy Heilberger, it was funny because we called that the three Richards, Richard the Third: Richard Abbinanti, Richard Raskin and Richard Fernandez was interim. And we said keep counseling upstairs to make sure everybody was alright. And we had sent at the time of the hit, people to West Street people to William Street to make sure people were okay.

Cristina: So if people wanted to leave they couldn't, if kids wanted to go?

Marijo: West Street was out. It was so close so those people bolted on their own before we could even get to them.

Cristina: Ok, okay. I forgot about that.

Marijo: William Street we tried to get people to stay just until we knew it was safe to be outside because there was a lot of debris flying around, it was horrible.

Cristina: Unrecognizable.

Marijo: The smoke faced…just the dust. And I know…here's where time, I don't know where time is. Um, I remember at one point I actually did go home in the afternoon to make sure that my family was okay.

Cristina: Oh, they got back?

Marijo: My baby was in the house with the sitter. But they wouldn't let my husband pass the security guard walking from 14th Street. So somehow he went wiggle, wiggle, wiggle around Chinatown and snuck back to our house. At that point we had no power, so we had to walk up several, several flights. Had no electricity, no power, no nothing. And we had to get out and they said go to the pier, and I'm like, what am we going to do at the pier? So I said you're coming with me. So I carried my son in the stroller down, what, 18 flights, 20 flights, with the suitcase around my neck and my husband. We came to Pace. And he took the baby and we like, slept on the floor in the Tower.

Cristina: Oh, at Pace.

Marijo: Yeah. And I was there all night with President Caputo, the three Richards and Cindy. Trying to figure out...during this time Richard Abbinanti had talked with the city to get city buses and we bused Tower residents to Pleasantville.

Cristina: Oh, I didn't know that.

Marijo: And to Brooklyn. To the St. George. To get them out of here. Um, we had contemplated, which was strange, this building didn't lose power (41 Park Row). The landmark building didn't lose power.

Cristina: Isn't that weird?

Marijo: It is weird. And I was brainstorming at that time, could we, are there large enough open spaces here that we could temporarily put people here as opposed to making them walk the bridge in this mess. Some point in that afternoon, whenever it was, the other plane had hit.

Cristina: I think it was like, a half hour later.

M: It was like a half hour later. So in that morning, during the time I was at security, it had hit. And I was in the courtyard at that time and saw it come down, saw the hit, no, I didn't see the hit, I saw it come down. And it was just like, pummeled. The whole downtown was like a war-zone, just pummeled.

Cristina: Oh my God.

M: It was just like (gasp). And the force of it was like (shakes desk, makes noises).

Cristina: Just like a movie. I can't even imagine.

Marijo: It was like, it was like hurricane chasers or whatever, it was just like, the force it was just insane. And I stayed at Pace for several days, until that Saturday after to ensure that anybody who came, and students would come to my little room in the middle of the night as I'm laying on the floor, and I would try to get them help, figure out where they could go, stay here, sleep in my room with me and then you can walk over tomorrow, or walk to the bridge. So there was a number of people who were stragglers who hadn't got back to campus or were at internships or what have you. The other thing that worked was our internal email system. The intraPace network, those were the old days. So to—we were, we couldn't fax or anything—so we were typing in the rosters, each name to Pleasantville so we could say who was who (types on keyboard). Obviously now we have hard copies, we have disks, we command centers, we have lots of things that we wouldn't have to do that now for. But we were doing that in the middle of the night trying to type every student that we had seen, saw, knew was around or not. And while we were in the mess sort of down here, Pleasantville was setting up the 1-800 numbers, the parent lines, and manning phones, for parents and information points. And I believe although I am not sure, somehow later we contracted with an outside internet so we could have a homepage so we could communicate.

Cristina: Did Pace have a homepage?

Marijo: At that time they did, but what helped in the interim was people like Shams (former Pace Press editor), people like Bill and Nancy (Offutt and Reagan), people like me, although I didn't have access, who had all these student listservs and all these student emails. So we started, and Bill and Nancy emailed like 600 people to try to piece together where people were.  And we were all doing that as we could. So it was half­-assed, yet it was all we could do at the time given the information data that we had. We continued to  feed people, we continued to bring in neighbors, there were several neighbors from the hospital (NYU Downtown), we had injured folks who came in that day who didn't go to the hospital because they thought it would be full, and we tried to treat them here as best we could and get them over there. We then later became a field hospital, like a "M*A*S*H.” So they just wiped the admissions lobby out and had cots and medical supplies and National Guard were here so it was all like a National Guard army base hospital...

Cristina: For anyone.

Marijo: For anyone. That was weird. That was weird.

Cristina: In the gym?

Marijo: In the admissions lobby.

Cristina: In the admissions lobby?

Marijo: They wiped out all the desks moved everything to the side.

Cristina: Oh wow, Okay that's a big space.

Marijo: It was wild looking. Um, doing triage, whatever they could. And then um sort of things...I, I lose a lot of it. I know I was there til that Saturday. We walked to the Lower East Side to get a train, through Chinatown. And Marilyn Jaffe-Ruiz was the provost at the time and she had a friend who had a studio apartment attached to his apartment and let us stay there for a couple of days with my child. And then I moved to a hotel for several weeks. And then commuted to midtown until we could come back on the 21° of September.

Cristina: Is that when classes resumed too?

Marijo: The 20th. The 20th. And in that time we made sure that all the vehicles that were piled up were that (makes motion with hands) big because what they had done in terms of clearing out was they had taken all the ambulances, all the cars Cristina, and they piled them all down the front of Pace, all alongside the walls. (Gets up from desk and points out of window)

Cristina: Oh wow.

Marijo: Like all the way around this entrance down towards Frankfurt with all cars piled on top of each other.

Cristina: Oh my God.

Marijo: With car seats in them, Ambulances...so we made sure that that was physically cleared, that the campus looked presentable to come back. We'd gotten air purifiers for every floor, every area. When they came back we had obviously supplies of water and masks for anybody who needed it to come back. And we, people were pretty damaged goods coming back. I mean people really excited to see people coming back, but it brought back a lot of stuff (Tearing up, whispers something), but, you know we gained...we  later that semester did a calling project about um, for those who hadn't come back, why hadn't they? Was it transportation, was it post-traumatic stress? We did a lot of outreach; there was a lot of sessions for counseling for faculty, staff and students. We did a lot of town hall meetings, President Caputo's leadership was amazing. He communicated often, concisely, calmly, tried to direct people to the resources. And a lot of improvements have happened in terms of safety and security in terms of our ability to be prepared. The EAP, Employee Assistance Program, for counseling for employees it's free, is now in place. A lot of good things came out of a tragedy, you know? Um, students did a whole lot of wonderful work that way too, um. And it brought the community together even as frail as it was. I mean I think we have a strong spirit, but people were like, you know (makes fist with her hands). I remember one thing when I was walking home paper kept sticking to me, like the swirls, and it was actually a Pace diploma.

Cristina: No, are you kidding?

Marijo: I was like I can't get this thing off me, and it kept sticking back at me, and I'm like...

Cristina: Oh my God.

Marijo: Oh my God. Oh my God. It was like someone's diploma from the towers had stuck to my leg.

Cristina: Or from an office building maybe? If they had their diploma hanging up?

Marijo: Yeah. So it was just like, that's so weird, isn’t it weird?

Cristina: I would say that was a good sign almost.

Marijo: I took it that way.

Cristina: A positive.

Marijo: I took it that way too, absolutely. But you know.

Cristina: That's weird. That's wild.

Marijo: There's a lot of kind of things, weird things like that. Um, but I was really proud of our students, you know? Really proud of them. So that's kind of it.

Cristina: Yeah. Let me see what follow-ups I can ask you...

Marijo: And what's weird is you feel like the media pictures, like people would send me pictures you know from the papers, stuff like that. Someone sent me one of like a hundred pictures and it was hard to look at because I had already seen it with my eyes. And I remember when I finally did get to the hotel my phone worked and I had about 40 messages of people wondering, are you alive? We haven't heard from you. Are you alive? Will you call us if you're alive? We haven't heard from you. We haven't heard from you. And my friend Jack Gental who was in the Times yesterday, did you read that article? Front page about the 9/11 families...

Cristina: Yeah.

Marijo: And the tapes? Jack Gental was the dean for students in Westchester, I knew him at NYU. And he had just left that September started a job at NJIT as dean for students. And a message I heard five days later from him was, Marijo, Marijo, Elaine's in the tower, I know she's safe, I know she's okay, she’ll come to you at Pace she knows you’re there, I know you'll take care of her. Can you go over there and help find her? It broke my heart, because obviously she perished. Um but...with some other friends of mine but you know, it was just like weird, you know just weird.

Cristina: Yeah, I can't even...it's just so overwhelming.

Marijo: I know! You can't even imagine it's ..whoa.

Cristina: . No, I mean, yeah I remember we were, I think my mom or parents were so in denial about it that we actually scheduled a campus visit for like a week after.

Marijo: Wow,oh.

Cristina: But we scheduled it before. And then it happened and my mom called, asked, can we still come and visit? And the person on the other end of the line was like, you know. Are you crazy? We're closed.Wow, yeah.

Marijo: Wow. We’re closed. And you smile. Have you seen the Pace Presses from then?

Cristina: Yes. Oh yeah. Yeah, what was really disappointing to us was that we entered in competition for that and we lost to a school in like, Oregon.

Marijo: Amazing, isn't it amazing? Shams did a lot of work I think that that was sort of the demise of his academics because he really...

Cristina: Yeah.

Marijo: I think he suffered from post-traumatic stress too and I think that he dove himself into it to get information and really had a hard time. This is my opinion only. Pulling back into studies because it is just so overwhelming.

Cristina: Sometimes it's just easier to put your energy in one direction.

Marijo: Well and it's also sort of I don't know maybe you feel like this sometimes as a reporter, it's almost a way to come outside yourself, an exterior self, another sort of persona that can be owned and not owned. Depending on whatever the circumstances...

Cristina: Oh, absolutely.

Marijo: But I think, I think that happens sometimes.

Cristina: Sure, it's easier to deal with it to sometimes as the reporter and not the person being interviewed.

Marijo: Absolutely, absolutely, yeah. I think that that, that did occur.

Cristina: Sure. Um, did you know any students who..

Marijo: Actually I did know one of them. Um, Vinesha Richards. She was interning over there. And I know um, I think I know one, but I'm not positive, and obviously I don't have a picture so I can't match it up, but I did know Vinesha. And I knew others, well friends, there. But it is weird you know, living down here too, coming back home, was also weird. Do you feel comfortable? Does having guys with oozies on the corner of your house make you feel better? Or not better? And then it's still burning. I mean so you’re still looking at fire weeks later and oh God.

Cristina: Did you consider moving?

Marijo: Not really. But you know what, I think people's stupidity, my own opinion, was what made me madder. Like, all Arabs are bad. Oh come on. There's good people and bad people in every culture. I was mad the day I walked out to go to a hotel going to Chinatown and seeing people acting like nothing had happened. Shopping at the market. And I found it was my own anger not their fault for going on. And then um, what was the other thing I was kind of mad about? Oh, the people who didn't live down here, and my family too saying oh come on, get over it. You know, it's been how many months? Or you know, you're smelling dead bodies you know. And you'd be like and plastic computers. Well, I don't really want to be reminded about my health effects for later, thanks, if I'm going to grow horns or whatever, you know? But you know I tried to always be there for the students and put my own stuff aside, get counseling if it needed to be. And since then I am on the board of trustees—board of directors for the World Trade Center Health Registry. So um, and I'm on their scientific review board for medical research related to health issues. So those are kind of good things um, to help others, even today.

Cristina: Um what were you, at the time, I just remember when it happened you are so preoccupied with other things, and then they don't matter anymore. What was going on at Pace that you were dealing with at the time?

Marijo: We had just checked in. We just had a grand opening. The crew was fantastic. We were gearing up because it was the start of Welcome Week. And getting all that together, and it was my first Tuesday and my first, my University 101 class, so I was getting ready for University 1 class. I had the board of trustees meeting I needed to go to, in the morning and then I was going to come teach in the afternoon. So it was kind of like, (sigh) the semester is opened and excited that it was starting and all these programs and everybody was like so very excited and it was really a wonderful time. And then just like, woah, holy shit. What just happened? It was kind of like what was in your head? You know, like what is happening? But you know being in this field a long time I have seen a lot of sad and unfortunate things, well the majority good things. But I've seen suicides, I've seen drug overdose, I've seen other things that happen occasionally in colleges and have always been able to keep that in perspective and I think that worked to my advantage that I could at that point not freak out as an individual, no title, no nothing. Just plain old Marijo, that I didn't freak out as an individual that I held it and did what I was supposed to do, which is take care of people and get people safe.

Cristina: It must be hard to mix that personal, professional plus since you’ve lived here, it's like... where you work, where you live...

Marijo: Having children is also another dimension to it.

Cristina: How do you deal with all that when something so traumatic happens like that, it affects you personally, professionally?

Marijo: Well, I think, you know I really try to think about it from all different sides. I like, I don't like to be a linear thinker, I like to look way out, I like to come in...

Cristina: It's the artistic...

Marijo: It is! It is. You know the many shades of whatever. I always have…what's good, what's bad, how do I face it, how might they think, how might others feel? And have been able to always look at situations like that and my mother has always said as a child I was always happy wherever I was, I was  a happy person. And could easily let,, you're fat, you're ugly, your dumb, as a kid, you know how you get those comments, roll off. And so I have this ability to sort of put in - you know after I've sort of mulled over it, put it into perspective and figured out kind of...I play back movie in my head. Like, lots of things play back to me like, oh I should have done that or I should I done that, it's a good thing I did that, and I look at things visually I have a visual look to things which makes sense with the art background, but I've always been able to sort of keep it in check. And you know, like when students get upset about something you know, that they have a right to be upset about or whatever, I always go look, it's just another day. No one has died, you know, it's important but you need to gain a perspective. And on that day it was hard to get one because you didn’t know what the heck was going on. But I've always had the ability to sort of chill my head down a couple notches and then just figure it out because you know, being a whole person is really important to your own sanity and your health. You know, you know, whatever.

Cristina: Right, Um, let's see. Um, I’m sorry.

Marijo: That’s okay.

Cristina: I have a question... Okay, so oh right. How, not that things ever really got back to normal, but how long would you say it took until, I don't know.. Was it the whole year that was just sort of...was the elephant in the room or..?

Marijo: You know I think it never stopped smelling.

­Cristina: Okay, so literally reminded of it.

Marijo: Downtown until after Thanksgiving, like the first week of December.

Cristina: Wow, okay.

Marijo: So you never got rid of that smell.

Cristina: You couldn’t.

Marijo: And sometimes even afterwards where like a puff of wind blows dust and you’d get the smell and it would take you right back. Um, so physically it never stopped smelling until after then so there was always this residual reminder I think for people down here. Plus you'd see people with gas masks on and dust masks on. For a very long time, so I think it was also a visual reminder for people that something had happened. Plus, you had lots of tourists coming here like, let’s look at the freak show hole over here! And you know, it would just be you know, constantly guiding lost tourists to the pit.

Cristina: And people selling things...

Marijo: And people selling things! And it was like this really weird, icky commercial, capitalist sort of ..ugh. What is also interesting, I think, it--I took it, I think it was the whole academic year.  Really bad in terms of fragility the first semester, the fall. People started corning back, but then there was other things I think that stirred a couple of things for us. There was that plane crash that was going to South American or somewhere in Queens.

Cristina: Yeah, it was in the Rockaways.

Marijo: Yes. Huge. Everybody freaked out here. There was a huge explosion or fire in Staten Island and you could see the flames and people freaked out here. So we had to put out a lot more calming security alerts about things that were happening because we were so keyed up, I think. And I think it took the whole academic year, honestly, to sort of actually get to some kind of little bit of normalcy. But there are moments even, you know, people get hit every once and a while with different things that just brings you right back. My child said that day, "Look mommy, city gone." Because he couldn't see anything out the window but black dust. And then weeks later when we came back to the apartment he goes, "Mommy, city's back, mommy sad." You know it's just like, Cod you're one and a half how do you get all that? And I think too it was difficult, and still is sort of for people down here. Especially around July 4th and Memorial weekend, those kinds of things, is the helicopters. So for that full year you constantly had military helicopters or helicopters swooping around. Battery Park by the playground, or you'd be at the Seaport. You know one day there was so many I said, let's get out of here, let's go home. What's happening? And I think it made us more paranoid that something was happening, and I think it's those things the kind of (sighs) you know that, that stuff that brings you back.

Cristina: Right, right. What um, so what was your take on, you know, the weeks and months after in terms of invading Afghanistan, and then the war in Iraq?

Marijo: … I couldn't point the dots to the next. It didn't make sense. Why were we going after people? What proof did they have? Why did we act so fast? Why was Cheney in charge that day? Why didn't, what is it, NORAD pick them up? It's raised a lot of really, beyond what the media says, um, some really interesting points. You know like, it makes you question, did government have something to do with this? Who knows, it would be terrible. I'm an anti-war person.

Cristina: Yeah, I'm the same way. I don't like any conflict.

Marijo: Me neither. And to jump at something—it's just despicable.

Cristina: Yeah. So, even the uh,um the uh war in Afghanistan I guess you could say, you thought was maybe was too hasty or was it necessary?

Marijo: Was it necessary? Was it necessary? It was hasty and in so many ways unnecessary. I mean, why did we do that? (Imitates George W. Bush) Weapons of mass destruction! You know, it's like what? What weapons? You know and I think excuse me, I think too media, you know it's, it’s, we're protected and exposed though media. There's a lot we don't know. There's a lot the general person doesn't know. There's a lot that you know, us, or those people on the left, know because they listen to alternative media. But that doesn't get into the mainstream of everyday folk. And there's just a lot of information that is just, it's curious. And it doesn't really for me, you know why do we have any of these wars? But the dots didn't draw to the X on the map for me. Like, what is this?

Cristina: So your take on the War on Terror in terms of...

Marijo: You know it's just like, who knows? I'm informed. I'm not in the White House to know if they are informed. I mean it's just, its, it just doesn't make sense to me. It really doesn't. And it's, it’s um, put a culture of people, you know, Muslims and Arabs...I mean this is the land of the free, you come here, and you know to make a better life or have a life, and for those people to go after innocent people here, um, as a result is just, it’s just...deplorable, it's disgusting. I get so angry about it. I really do. I really do, even today. I went to the Free Speech Dissent thing yesterday and uh was it, Liana? Said that, she didn't say where she got her statistics though, but there was something like 58% of Americans have an anti-Arab, Muslim sentiment. Isn't that horrible? And what about before? I mean it's just all crazy. So many injustices.

Cristina: What’s uh, the memorial has been in the news so much lately. What's your opinion on that?

Marijo: Do something! Do something, whatever! You know, take into consideration the families, certainly. Please, please, please, please. Let them be primary over commercial over millionaires, billionaires making more money. But do something, do something. Anything. Living down here with, it's just you know, it's like..

Cristina: Coming out of the subway it's there, walking around it's there...

Marijo: Yeah, and it's just like, Yeah what are you going to do? I mean just have a PATH station? That's it? There used to be a mall there, there used to be dinners there, you know like restaurants there, there was you know children's activities there, you know, there was you know, my son's back-play ground. World Trade was my son's playground. Totally, like, put something. You know, I wouldn't care how big it is.

Cristina: Yeah.

Marijo: You know this random bag search thing is ridiculous. It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. It really is such a racial profiling. I'm really getting political on you.

Cristina: No that's fine, go ahead.

Marijo: You know the profiling thing is ridiculous. I mean just, because the subways are where we all are at if we're middle class or below. We're in the subway, peacefully coexisting with people from all over the world. And you know what? If you want to put a bomb in, you know my blond, blue-eyed bag, they're never going to check me.

Cristina: No.

Marijo: Ever. Ever. And I could easily be doing it as opposed to somebody, you know. It's just gross. How can you protect our subways? Come on. It's too big, it's too vast.

Cristina: So what would um, in your opinion, like how would we be, how should we be safer without having a police state or something, what do you think?

Marijo: Well, not a police state, but I think you know we have to be good citizens. We have to look out for each other. We have to you know, if you see something say something.

Cristina: True.

Marijo: Whatever, you know? I think we have to be better humanitarians, better global citizens. If you don't know something, educate yourself. If you can do some good you do it. Treat everybody like you want to be treated. It's like basic kindergarten stuff. You know, basic kindergarten stuff. Um, but, you know it's hard.

Cristina: Okay, a few more questions, sorry I forgot I had these. How has Pace University changed as a culture, as an institution since the event?

Marijo: Well I know we've done a lot on business continuity and planning so if the systems went down we could still continue. We've done a lot in terms of preparedness in terms of as I said, printing rosters, having plans within departments, knowing people's numbers, getting a printout of every student in the university, their phone number, their contact number, I get it every three months. Everybody. So I have a hard copy. So, there's a lot more in terms of planned forms, there's a lot more in terms of security, subtle changes because the guys were always...but obviously we do wear IDs now. Um, I think that, I think it's like with any tragedy, after 9/11 we were very, very, very tight, close family. I think that tends to be so whenever there's something horrible that happens it brings you together. And then as time goes by we kind of take, you know I think Pace is still really a tight family. Um, there's a lot of really wonderful people here doing a lot of great things, programs and services, they really, really, really, really care. And that's the important thing, you know, I think that we still are a bonded family (her cellphone rings) bounded by what we experienced, um, and I think that we try to, you know be kind, do it the right way, at least I do.

Cristina: I was going to ask how has your job changed? Do you view your job differently now?

Marijo: A pinch um. I have a lot more training in sort of emergency stuff, which I had before but now it's more specific to these kinds of things. Um, I would say that I make-- my number one concern always is to care for the students, are they okay? And two, are we safe? So I think it has intensified. My care-zone has intensified probably because of, um and I don't discriminate with my caring. Um, even the biggest problems I still worry about, um in terms of people. But you know I think that, but I think that that's true. (Phone rings again). I'll get to that later. He's babysitting for my son; he's probably lost his mind already by now.

Cristina: Oh, okay. Oh okay, no, I think that's a good note to end on.

Marijo: Okay!                      

Cristina: Thank you so much.

Marijo: You're welcome!



Pace 9-11 Oral History Project

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