Like millions of people around the world, Scottish students Claire Walker and Victoria Cleary watched as the events of Sept. 11 unfolded. The two were so moved by the tragedy that they came to America to document reaction. After considering a number of Florida universities, Walker and Cleary selected USF as the site for their research.
Walker and Cleary, students at the University of Dundee, Scotland, have been on campus since mid-June capturing group and individual responses to the tragedy as input to a documentary and a dissertation. They have been using interviews and questionnaires to solicit responses from students, faculty and staff, with some discussion sessions with individuals and groups videotaped for use in the documentary.
Walker said the choice of USF as their research site was due to the diverse makeup of the student body. Additionally, the university had shown the most interest in having the students conduct their research on campus.
“We chose USF because it was the most responsive and supportive to the idea of having us come to the campus,” said Walker.
Walker, a geography major, decided America’s reaction to this event would be the subject of her dissertation.
“I could have done a study on water quality in Scotland,” said Walker. “But I wanted to extend out further. The title of my paper is ‘American Sense of National Identity in the Wake of Sept. 11.'”
Cleary, who will produce the documentary, decided to accompany Walker. She said the idea to do a documentary had come as an afterthought.
“I jokingly said that I’d come too. Six months later, we were all organized. We didn’t get any money from the university for this trip,” said Cleary. “First, I said that I’d just write a bit about my experience. Then I decided to do a documentary.”
According to Walker and Cleary, their research so far has revealed more than just an increase in patriotism post-Sept. 11. Closer family ties and a determination to enjoy life are just some of the changes in attitude engendered by the tragedy.
For Cleary, the production of the documentary is a cathartic experience.
“Sept. 11 had an effect on me personally. I love America, and I love New York City. This documentary isn’t a class project for me. We had to pay for it all ourselves,” she said.
Cleary said the attacks on America generated an emotional ripple that spread out across the world and affected the perception of Americans worldwide.
“Everyone was affected. My mother used to judge Americans by what she saw on the Ricki Lake show” said Cleary. “But after 9-11, she had so much empathy for America. We have bombings all the time that filter through Britain with mail bombing and the IRA. But this, this was bigger.”
Cleary plans to show the finished documentary to as many people as possible.
“I’m going to try to have it finished in time for Sept. 11 this year, to get it on a local TV station where I live,” said Cleary. “I want to also stream it on the Internet for everyone here to see.”
Interviews and focus groups will continue through this Thursday. The two are still forming the last of their focus groups. If interested in participating, please e-mail Claire Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.