Ten years ago, commercial airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center and, amidst the smoke and flames, burned a painful image into the minds of Americans. To this day no American forgets where he or she was when the two towers fell or who they were after the ashes settled.
Everyone has their story to tell. At 8:46 a.m., every Tech student was in a different town, sitting in a different classroom but asking the same questions. The Sept. 11 attacks represent a unique moment in America’s history, a time when the nation was not at war but felt a foreign strike on its soil, a time when the country gazed into the void of uncertainty with nothing to grab onto except each other.
“We saw the smoke from Jersey,” said Jessica Siemer, second-year BME major. “I was in fourth grade, in a Catholic school, so they moved everyone to the church and everyone sat there and prayed.”
What makes Sept. 11 such a deep and vivid memory was the ability to watch the events unfold before our eyes in real time. Every news network streamed images of panic and destruction to the classrooms and homes of Tech students.
“I was in eighth grade history class when it happened and the entire class watched the events on TV the whole day,” said Monica Patel, a sixth-year BIO major.
However, for some, the tragedy was more real than electronic images and sounds.
“I was in my fifth grade class, they locked us in the classrooms, and the teacher said that something terrible happened but she was waiting for our parents to tell us themselves. I went home and my parents were crying because my second cousin worked in the towers and we didn’t know if she was alive.” said Timothy Heffner, a third-year AE major.
Flight 77 flew into the side of the Pentagon shortly after the attacks on the Twin Towers; it soon became clear to the authorities and media that the United States was facing an organized terrorist attack. Those who had family members and relatives working in downtown Washington D.C. and New York City had to endure uncertainty as chaos unfolded.
“My father was working in the Pentagon and I was stuck sitting in my classroom watching the events unfold,” said John Kane, a fourth-year CmpE major.
At 10:28 a.m., the North Tower collapsed, and after 5:21 p.m. the second fell. An eerie silence spread over New York City and for the most part children around the country were shuttled home early to their families
One anonymous Tech student, at the age of 14, was a Junior EMT at the time and drove headfirst into the debris cloud in an ambulance to assist in first response efforts.
“The city looked like a war zone,” he said. It was later discovered that the dust blanketing Manhattan caused breathing complications and lead to several deaths.
No one was left untouched by the events that occurred on that day. Tech students find their own ways to remember those who passed and those who bravely marched into the fires to help.
“Turns out [my cousin] was late for work that day. When she got off the subway the police stopped her from leaving. I pray every year for those who lost [their loved ones] because we almost did,” Heffner said.
Years later, on the tenth anniversary, students look back on the date and reflect on what it meant to them and their nation.
“I think of it as a tragic event that opened Americans’ eyes to what was going on in the rest of the world. It allowed us to come together as a nation and move forward,” said John Kane, a fourth-year CMPE major.
There will be a candlelight memorial vigil held this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. by the Kessler Campanile.
Ten years later, the memory still remains branded in America’s mind.