Loading

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: MEMORIES FROM 9/11

Driving to campus from my home usually takes 15 minutes. On Sept. 11, 2001, it felt like an eternity. As I was listening to the news of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, my body turned numb. I immediately called home to tell everyone to turn on the news. As I entered the Palmer Center, my work office at the time, I noticed everyone was hovered around a computer terminal, television, or meeting in small groups. I was born in New York and still had family members in the area. As I sat down in my office, I immediately tried to contact family. I was unsuccessful because the lines were down for hours. I tried to call one of my classmates from high school who worked in the World Trade Center but was unsuccessful. I did speak with him eventually and learned he left this position six months prior. 9/11 is a day I will never forget.

Craig E. Chesson, Associate Dean of Students, Division of Student Affairs

I was an undergrad in electrical engineering at the time. I started watching before the second plane hit and had to go to my senior design class not long after the towers collapsed. It was very quiet and somber in class. The professors asked whether we should continue or cancel class. Everyone made it clear we wanted to continue, and so class went on.

Todd Atadero, undergraduate laboratory support engineer, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

I was in the shower when I heard the news as I was preparing for work. My sister was on her way back to the U.S. from international travel and was traveling through New Jersey to San Francisco. Her plane got stranded on the runway for hours, many people demanded to get off the plane and get on a later flight. My sister was so tired that she just slept and stayed on the plane. The people who got off unfortunately ended up on the hijacked plane. It was a very tense time until my sister got home, saw the news and let us all know she was OK. So I will never forget what I was doing and how frightened I was for my sister.

Erica Suchman, Professor and Distinguished Teaching Scholar, Microbiology, Immunology & Pathology

I heard about an airplane hitting one of the Twin Towers and found the nearest TV to watch the second airplane hit the second tower. I said to myself, "We're going to war." Seeing the carnage that occurred that day, I called my unit and asked where they needed me. It was a couple of months later I found myself in Afghanistan, serving with an amazing crew of soldiers and heroes. I will always be grateful I was able to serve with these fine warriors in protection of my country.

Al Armonda, LTC Retired, Military Science Instructor

I learned about the terrorist attacks from the car radio as I was dropping my kids off at school on my way to campus. My criminology students emailed me asking if I was canceling class scheduled for later that day. I did not, and we spent some time discussing what was known about the tragic events in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania. It was a strained and tense 75 minutes. Although I have always talked about political crime and terrorism, many of my students believed these generally occurred "somewhere else." I remember thinking that this belief would not hold anymore. What I did not think about was how attitudes and actions toward many groups (immigrants, Muslims, brown people) could or would take a grim turn from that day on.

Prabha Unnithan, Professor, Department of Sociology

Like everyone, I felt shock, horror, powerlessness and yet a closeness with families, the brave folks on that plane and the firemen and people in health care working for days was surreal. There is a lot I don’t like to recall, the hours watching TV and wondering what would happen to the U.S., my family, friends and if our lives would change. I recall how shocked my international colleagues were and the many kind emails they sent in solidarity and friendship.

Diana Wall, University Distinguished Professor, Inaugural Director of SoGES

I had just left the Ram Volleyball Booster Breakfast meeting at the Silver Grill on Walnut Street about 7:45 a.m. that morning. The radio in my car was on when I started it to drive to my office at Conference Services. They were just beginning to report the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I monitored a radio all day long as I tried to carry on with my normal work that day.

Gordon "Hap" Hazard, Retiree, Conference Services

I was on campus, and we were in a meeting. None of us could believe what had happened with the WTC and thought it must have been a horrible accident. Then, we heard about the second tower. It was very strange and hard to comprehend.

Dr. Dean A. Hendrickson, Professor of Surgery, Department of Clinical Sciences

This was the morning of our leadership staff meeting in the Office of Admissions. Each update we received was more frightening than the previous one, but there was great comfort in being with others with whom we could each process and talk through our feelings and concerns. This was my son’s freshman year at Colorado State. I recall speaking to students in his freshman seminar class and provided my opinion that this was likely to be their “Vietnam War” and that the country and our relationship in the world would change and likely never be the same as it was.

Mary Ontiveros, Retired Vice President, Office of Inclusive Excellence

I was on I-25 driving to campus for a morning class when NPR reported the tower hits. It was a brief announcement, bothersome for sure, but the detail and severity didn't immediately sink in. I had my morning class as usual with little to no discussion of the event. It was during the rest of that day and the coming days and weeks that it all sunk in.

John Straayer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science

It was about 8 a.m. here, and I was preparing for class. A student came in and said, “Do you know what's happening out there?” I went to the student center to view the TV monitors, and people were huddled around in silence and shock. I went to my 9 a.m. class and told the students that we should discuss this briefly but not try to cover regular material. ... I'm sure many of us spent the rest of the day in uncertain dismay as more information became available.

Neil Grigg, Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

It was my first semester at CSU, having come here from New Jersey. I grew up about 25 miles from NYC. I was leaving my office in the Clark Building that morning to go to class, and I saw the images on the TV in the hallway. Students were in the hallway staring up at the screen. I remember thinking about whether I knew anyone who worked in that part of the city.

Robert Duffy, Chair, Department of Political Science

I was taking my 2-year-old daughter to day care before coming to CSU. We had the radio on in the car, and I remember hearing about the airplane hitting the first tower and thinking it was a failure or mistake of some kind, not an intentional collision. I dropped my daughter off, and by the time I returned to the front desk at the day care, the second tower had been hit. The day care staff was gathered in the front office and listening to the news as it came out. It became clear that this was not an accidental event. After that, I went to my office in the basement of Plant Science (Extension Soil & Crop Sciences) and remember watching the news on the computer with others in the office the rest of that morning. It was surreal. We were in shock and unable to focus on our work.

Jessica Davis, Department Head, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

I was in the middle of a 35-minute commute from home to work when I heard the news of the 9/11 attacks on NPR. I remember being horrified, realizing instinctively that this was a hugely important event and struggling to get my mind around the implications so I could try to talk about it within the hour to my classical social theory students.

Pete Taylor, Chair, Department of Sociology

I first got the news when I was dropping my daughter off at day care. When I arrived on campus, all energy was consumed by what felt like disbelief as we watched this unfolding horror. As a native New Yorker — with extended family who worked in the towers — the distress was acute.

Matt Hickey, Professor, Department of Health and Exercise Science

On 9/11, I was driving to work, and I remember hearing on NPR that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers – I still remember Karl Kasell’s voice from the newscast. I pictured a small plane but didn’t understand the magnitude of what was happening until more details came out later that morning. We were in our offices in the College of Health and Human Sciences Dean’s Office in Gibbons as we all tried to process the horrible events as they unfolded.

Gretchen Gerding, Communications Director, College of Health and Human Sciences

From my home office, I heard Bryant Gumbel’s voice announce just before 9 a.m., “This is a CBS News Special Report.” I asked how could this be? How could there be such hate, such pain inside someone? Raised 40 miles up the Hudson River from which my dad commuted to NYC, my emotions traced “breaking reports” of an experience to which nothing could compare. The day filled with silent cries, grief knifed hearts, and stomachs grew hollow. In 10 seconds, a building fell that penetrated memory for eternity. I remember that morning quickly calling my wife Barb to ask if her sister Buzzy was flying. Buzzy had just phoned Barb to ask if I was in flight as we both were consulting and worked out of state often.

Rich Feller, Professor Emeritus, School of Education

I was two or three weeks into my graduate program in the English Department and was on my way to class when news was passing around the student body about something happening in New York. Many of us ended up in the amphitheater classroom in Eddy Hall, where someone was broadcasting the news. At that point, we weren’t going to class but instead finding places we could gather together for support.

Beth Etter, Communications Director, College of Liberal Arts

Stephanie and I were getting the kids ready for school, waiting for a friend to pick them up. Thoughts went from wow, what’s happening to oh my goodness this is real and horrific. I headed to work and recall watching more coverage in the basement of the student center when the second building collapsed. The food court area with the TV was packed full of students and staff. We had a friend who is a United pilot who was in the air at the time. His wife did not know if he was safe until later in the morning. We wanted to take in all the information but also wanted to shield the kids from the non-stop coverage. Everyone was sad, scared, in disbelief and angry, and moving around in a bit of a daze.

Chris Seng, CSU System Joint Banner Project Manager

Every time I go to the Arkansas Valley Research Station, I remember 9/11. I used to occasionally drive my motorcycle out to assignments and on my way to Rocky Ford. I stopped at a gas station in Brush. I went in and heard on the radio that the first plane had hit. At that time, they still thought it was a small plane, a random accident. I went to get some breakfast and everyone in the diner was pretty entranced with the news. I remember stopping at a Radio Shack and buying a little portable radio for the rest of the ride. I was photographing a water quality research project that Civil Engineering professor Timothy Gates was heading up. We were all still in a bit of disbelief, but we had a job to do so we went ahead and did it. As I was photographing the researchers, I remember thinking how empty the skies were.

Bill Cotton, Retired Photographer, Marketing and Communications

My most vivid memory was going to NYC for the marathon after 9/11. Most assumed the race would be canceled. I was there a few days early to get acclimated. I had run this race several times – had my normal routines and practice routes in the city. On each run, I would pass a firehouse – many were the home base of fallen first responders. The sidewalk outside the stations were piled high with flowers, candles and photos. There were so many, they spilled out onto the street. Along the route on every light pole, every sign and every bin on Broadway, and many walls and windows, carried fluttering, frantic, homemade computer-printed posters with pictures and details of someone missing: “Last seen Floor 98, WTC”

The feeling of loss was overwhelming: “How could these people cope with the thought of what their loved one went through on that floor?"

On race day – the start of the race was on top of the Verrazano Bridge. It was very surreal to be on that bridge because you’d look to the left and see the gaping hole where the World Trade Centers stood. During the race – among the 2 million spectators – you would see the firemen and policemen (who lost family and friends) out there cheering for running for something that seems so inconsequential, the spirit of the people was just beautiful within all the tragedy.

Eugene F. Kelly, Professor of Pedology, Deputy Director AES, Associate Dean Extension