Kerry Fosher brings 9/11 experience to Keene State students

Lindsey Arceci

Equinox Staff


This year’s annual Mason Library Lecture at Keene State College featured a speaker who studied at KSC and went on to receive her doctorate in anthropology, taking on the title as a doctor of social anthropology in the process.

Kerry Fosher was recommended to speak this year by an employee of the library who remembers Fosher as a student employee at the Mason Library, Irene Herold, dean of the library, said.

“Usually what I do each year is ask my faculty and staff who is someone they are particularly interested in that meets the parameters for the Mason Library lecture,” Herold said. “So they have to be from New England, they have to be an acknowledged scholar or authority in their field, and they have to be somebody who is willing to come to Keene State for a relatively modest price. And in this case, Kerry is doing it for free.”

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Herold said she went to the American Democracy Project conference last July, and at the time she had the idea of inviting Kerry in the back of her mind.

“It just seemed to fit very, very beautifully with the whole American Democracy theme of civil engagement and how do we create citizen scholars from our students,” she added.

According to Herold, Fosher’s official title is the First Command Social Scientist for Marine Corps Intelligence Activity. “Now she’s the Director of Research at the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning,” Herold added.

On the evening of the lecture, the event began with students from Dr. Rose Kundanis’s Journalism and Oral History class and Dr. Nancy Lory’s Development, Exceptionality, and Learning class got up to speak about personal memories and stories about September 11 and offer quotes from students they interviewed on the event.

As Fosher went up to speak, she began by stating that what she was going to discuss should be regarded not as the government’s, or of others involved in the military, but as her own personal remarks.

Her theme was continuity, a theme even she said may seem out of place for the topic. “When we talk about 9/11 we tend to talk about what changed,” she said. “There can be no doubt that many things across America and across the world changed on 9/11. But changes happen in part because of major events and in part because of the smaller, less visible processes that were already underway.”

One of the main topics she spoke about had to do with issues citizens saw in the country after 9/11. But from what she said, these issues were already being addressed and evaluated by organizations like Homeland Security and the Marine Corps.

These groups of people were concerned with topics such as understanding culture and anthropological expertise.

“The issue was less a 9/11 issue, but more of a growing issue about culture and anthropological expertise for military and intelligence organizations,” she added.

These organizations soon realized that the post-9/11 operations were not working with that kind of knowledge.

Fosher said they may have thought that knowledge of culture would fix everything, but it wasn’t enough.

She admitted that her speech was going to be told in the incoherent way in which she learned what she had to say.

Discovering how people were figuring out how to function after an event like 9/11 was very sporadic and chaotic, Fosher said.

Her work began in Boston in September, where she was hoping to have her dissertation proposal approved, but then Sept. 11 happened.

She said she started immediately collecting newspapers articles, listening to as much radio as she could, and trying to document the events and changes as they happened.

Besides the research she did on her own, she went to the Boston responders and spoke in great length with police chiefs and others to gain information on what they were thinking of what was happening.

“I spent a lot of time in traffic with police chiefs and fire chiefs; that’s a great way to get information because people get chatty,” Fosher added.

Fosher said she found herself in the middle of the Boston residents discussion of what it means to be secure.

“So imagine a meeting; cops, firefighters, city officials, the FBI, coast guard, FEMA representatives, that gathered to talk about the security level being raised to orange [high].”

She described how people really didn’t know where the threat was coming from.

Could the threat be to any certain buildings, to people, or is it a bomb? People didn’t know.

Some of the other things she learned from her research were that individuals who work to help protect us and take care of us after an accident are trained to do the same things, even if it is because of an attack.

EMS responders, cops, firefighters, are trained to do inspections and take care of people, Fosher mentioned, but their procedures don’t really change even if the circumstances are different.


Lindsey Arceci can be contacted at

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