Meet the model/actress/student who brought patriotism to USC, and don’t miss the plot twist toward the end of the story.
Jennifer Ann Massey was supposed to swing through the World Trade Center subway stop en route to a modeling gig in Brooklyn right around 8:45 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001.
Instead, the Southern Texas native overslept, and watched in horror with the rest of America as two commercial jetliners flew into the twin towers.
In the wake of the attacks, the patriotism and camaraderie was palpable, she said.
“That week, everyone was an American,” Massey said. “In that tragedy, people came together.”
However more recently, as a college student at the University of Southern California, the lack of campus memorials or observances on the anniversary of 9/11 has bothered Massey, she said, adding it’s not just the school, sometimes it seems the entire greater Los Angeles area could care less about the day.
So Massey did something about it, what she calls her “crazy journey.” She made calls. She set up meetings. She sent flurries of emails. She gave presentations. She bugged people, then bugged them some more. She didn’t take no for an answer.
And when it was all said and done – what she called months of “sweat, tears, but no blood” – the history major secured a chunk of steel from one of the Twin Towers that will serve as the cornerstone of a future 9/11 memorial at the private university.
“It’s the top of an I-beam,” Massey said excitedly. “It weighs about 100 pounds.”
The memorial was secured thanks to the backing of University of Southern California administrators – and in particular Dr. Varun Soni, dean of religious life – who allowed Massey to lobby for the steel on the school’s behalf.
Campus officials say they are designing the memorial now, and hope to install it sometime soon near the school’s Department of Public Safety building.
“Jennifer Massey really took the lead on this project, and reached out to the 9/11 Families Association and the Fire Department of New York,” Soni said in an email to The Fix. “This would not have happened without her perseverance and hard work.”
“9/11 was not just an American tragedy, but a global one,” he added. “Indeed, more than 90 countries were represented in the deaths at the World Trade Center. Given that our campus is truly a global location, with 8,000 international students from all over the world, we feel that USC is an appropriate place for the memorial. We hope that it will be visited not just by our students, but also by our neighborhood communities and university visitors.”
For Massey, however, it’s all about America.
“It might sound cheesy, but I’m really a patriotic American,” she said. “This memorial will mean we stand in solidarity with New York, with what happened that day. We are not going to forget, either. It didn’t just happen to New York, it happened to all Americans.”
In fact, Massey is so dedicated to America, she sort of gave up her impressive acting career to pursue a larger priority – her passion to promote conservative ideals on campus. Massey – insert dramatic pause – is president of the USC College Republicans.
“I took that knowing I’d probably never get an acting job again,” she said of coming out as a Republican.
She is quick to emphasize being a Republican has nothing to do with her patriotism, or her effort to bring the World Trade Center steel to campus. In fact, she didn’t tout that connection during any of her interactions bringing the I-beam to the West Coast.
“This is not about politics, I just wanted to get this done,” she said.
Nevertheless, the journey from working in the modeling world and notoriously left-leaning Hollywood circles to touting conservative ideals to peers is a rare path, indeed. But to Massey, it’s simple.
“It’s common sense,” she said.
Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of The College Fix.