Sept. 10, 2002--For most of us, the memory of Sept. 11 is still vivid.
It is embedded in the moment that morning when we learned a plane had crashed
into the World Trade Center in New York City.
Some UD faculty, staff and students here share their memories.
Zaki Abdelhamid, graduate student, Professional Theater Training
I arrived at the Hartshorn building at around 9 a.m. Several of my fellow
students were gathered around the computer looking at images of the first
tower in flames. Although the images were shocking, it didn't affect me
in the way it did an hour later. After all, I didn't know what had really
An hour later I went to the Scrounge, and stared at the big screen TV
with horror. When I saw the towers collapse, I couldn’t hold back my tears.
I broke down feeling pain in my heart, a pain I've never felt before.
You see, I'm from the Middle East. I moved to the U.S. in 1994, and
of all the horrors I've seen, nothing affected me like this.
I felt angry, very angry that someone attacked the country that gave
me a second chance on life.
I love America, and I'm very proud to be a part of this beautiful country,
but then the thought hit—What have we done? What horrors did we unleash
on others to make them hate us so much. Thoughts of Hiroshima, Korea, Vietnam
and countless others raced through my mind. And then the phrase "ENOUGH,
NO MORE!" The phrase kept running through my head and torturing me.
This incident made me take a vow of nonviolence. We are all God's children.
Ralph J. Begleiter, Rosenberg Professor of Communication and Distinguished
Journalist in Residence
At about 9:50 a.m., I took a call in my office from one of my best students,
Lion Gardner (a second-year grad student who has since graduated).
He asked if I had my TV on.
He told me to turn it on. His tone of voice was stern and fearful as
he virtually ORDERED me to turn on the TV. So I did. Of course, the set
stayed on most of the day. And I began a videotape recording immediately.
Soon, a small crowd of faculty and staff gathered around the TV sets
in the communication department.
While watching the attacks unfold, I clearly remember having three distinct
First, having witnessed and reported on several previous incidents of
terrorism since 1981, I felt the same flush of despair and horror most
people around the world must have felt on Sept. 11.
The pit of my stomach ached with the pain of this incident, even as
my journalist's mind began calculating potential likely casualties, likely
suspects and likely U.S. reaction. Instinctively, I began thinking of the
“sources” I would be telephoning if I were still at CNN, to help uncover
the details and aftermath of this attack.
Second, I thought of my friends and colleagues at CNN, other networks,
The New York Times and other news organizations in New York and Washington.
I knew many of them would be rushing to lower Manhattan and to the Pentagon
to cover the story. And even before the towers fell, I know I imagined
that some of my friends might be injured—or worse—in their attempts to
get close to the unfolding story.
As I watched the south tower collapse, that fear became almost palpable
for me; the faces of my journalist colleagues in New York and Washington
swam through my head amid the smoke and debris of the television scenes.
I knew that although the world was seeing only distant shots of the Trade
Center and Pentagon at first, there would be photographers, producers,
reporters, crews and couriers literally rushing into the face of disaster.
Journalists, after all, like firefighters, police and health care workers,
are usually among the “first responders” to events like these.
Furthermore, one of my closest broadcast news friends, a colleague with
who I have worked in Washington since the mid-1970s, was now CNN's Pentagon
correspondent. I knew he was very likely in the Pentagon building when
it was struck. Initially, I didn't know exactly where the plane had hit
the building, but I knew exactly where my colleague's office is. And I
thought immediately of his wife and two children who are also among my
family's closest friends.
It took several days before I satisfied myself that no one I knew among
the journalism community of New York and Washington had suffered serious
injury or death. But those were nightmare days.
Third, as I stood in my UD office, absorbing the terrible scenes on
TV, I thought repeatedly—and sometimes even asked aloud of no one in particular
around me—”What the hell am I doing HERE, at a university, as this event
unfolds?” I should be rushing to help explain it to the world, I thought
aloud, to cover the unfolding events and analyze them against the backdrop
of previous terrorism for a television audience. I genuinely and seriously
questioned, for the first time since joining the UD faculty, whether I
had made a huge mistake forsaking my broadcast journalism career for academic
My first class of the day began at 11a.m.
A faculty colleague wondered whether we should go to class, but I had
no doubt I would be there, my videotape in hand and decades of reporting
on terrorism in my head. I invited her class to join mine.
Quite a few students arrived in class without knowing much of what had
In class that day and for many days throughout the semesters, I attempted
to help students understand the rich tapestry of terrorism, media issues
and politics unfolding before them in real time. (Incidentally, one of
the first things I pointed out to my students was the absence of “close-up”
pictures, including the absence of pictures of victims leaping in desperation
from the upper stories of the World Trade Center buildings. Those pictures,
I told students, were surely being taken by my colleagues. But they weren't
being shown on the air.)
Very quickly I realized that although I had questioned my decision
to leave broadcast news for the classrooms of UD, I had a new audience
with whom to work to help understand the seemingly incomprehensible acts
which had occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.
It was easy and useful, I believe, to incorporate the lessons of 9/11
and the war on terrorism into my "Politics and the Media" class for the
rest of the semester and to devote the spring semester of my foreign affairs
and media speaker series, "Global Agenda," to understanding international
Lynn Berg, graduate student, Professional Theatre Training Program
I had just gotten out of the shower and was getting dressed and ready
to go to class, when my roommate, Jeff, knocked on the door and said, "Hey,
I don't want to worry you guys, but a plane just crashed into the World
I woke up my girlfriend and turned on NBC news and they were showing
footage of one of the towers burning. At first I thought it had been a
small private plane that had veered off course. I thought it was a pilot
accident. Then right before our eyes, we watched as the second plane hit
the second tower. All I could say was that I was shocked, and didn't know
what was happening and was worried about what was going to happen next.
When I heard that it might be the work of terrorists, I felt like it
was a kind of violation. It frightened me because I knew that our nation
was no longer immune from such attacks.
Hilary Christine Brown, freshman, majoring in political science and
I was in my high school public speaking class waiting for the “starting
bell” to ring when my teacher ran into the room and turned on the TV without
a word.... And then it began.
Our class started watching just as the second plane hit, and by the
collapse of the second building, the room was full of people, students
and teachers from many classes.
It was a sad and very flabbergasting sight that seemed to bewilder everyone.
We all stood together, not as students and teachers, but as fellow Americans
in shock and disbelief, asking ourselves: “Could this really be happening?”
When the first building fell, it was like a reality check—everyone gasped
and many began to cry. It was a terrible, yet very memorable moment in
Maxine Colm, vice president for administration
I was in the dental chair in New Jersey and the hygienist rushed in
and said a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I leapt out of
the chair saying that my son, Mark, worked there and left the office immediately.
I rushed back to the University and during the trip tried frantically
to reach my son by phone and my husband in New Jersey to no avail. By the
time I reached the office, I knew the enormity of what had transpired and
gratefully, my secretary, Scarlett Hamm was able to get through to my husband.
My son had called him as he was evacuating the building to say that he
was all right. He reached us later that evening.
To say the least, I was distraught until I finally heard his voice.
Joan DelFattore, professor of English
I was scheduled to be at the World Trade Center on Sept. 12. On Sept.
11, I worked on a book until around noon and then checked my voice-mail.
There was a message from the person I was supposed to have met in New York
saying that we obviously wouldn't be going. I tried to call her back to
find out what she meant but couldn't get through, and an operator said
that the lines were jammed. I asked "Why? Has something happened?" There
was a pause, and then she said, "Oh, yeah. Something's happened.
Griffin DuBreuil, graduate student, Professional Theatre Training
I was in school walking in to my third period math class just after
10 a.m., when my friend, Harry, who just had a study hall, said, “Hey Griffin,
two planes hit the World Trade Centers.”
I turned the on the TV and 10 minutes later my class saw the north tower
I was in total awe.
I didn't know what to think because I have a cousin who worked in Manhattan
and I didn’t know where he was that day. I absolutely could not believe
God bless the innocent men and women who save lives and those who died
Conrado (Bobby) M. Gempesaw, vice provost for academic and international
I was in Minneapolis attending a Kellogg Foundation meeting. The invited
speaker was the president and founder of Visa International. While he was
speaking, one of the Kellogg staff members came in to the room and announced
that the World Trade Center was hit by a plane. At that point, it was very
difficult to listen to the speaker since the group was now interested in
learning more about what was happening.
The meeting was adjourned and the participants started to make plans
to get back home.
I was scheduled to fly to Salzburg that afternoon. Of course, all flights
were canceled. I tried to rent a car, but, could not get one.
I asked Kellogg staff members if I could ride with them to Michigan
and then drive their rented car to Delaware. They agreed, so I was on the
road driving for two days and listened to NPR for the latest news updates.
My initial reaction at that time was ask the question “why” and a year
later, I know there are still a lot of people asking the same question.
Bernard Herman, director of the Center for American Material Culture
Studies and Rosenberg Professor of Art History
I was sitting in my office preparing for a meeting scheduled later in
the morning. Eileen Prybolsky, the administrative assistant for the Department
of Art History, came to the door and asked, “Did you hear the news about
the World Trade Center? A plane just flew into it and it’s burning!”
My first response was that the report was a hoax, but Eileen insisted
that I look at CNN online.
Then the second plane hit!
We were stunned, and—like everyone else in United States—clueless. The
idea that it was an attack still hadn't dawned on me, even after the third
plane slammed into the Pentagon.
By the time the Pentagon was attacked, I was in Dean Huddleston's office.
From somewhere he had scouted out a television. We all watched dumbfounded
The images that stick with me are the collective disbelief in the dean's
office as we watched live footage of people, trapped in the towers, holding
hands and leaping to their deaths; the owner of Newark Bagel in front of
his shop trying to reach friends or family on his cell phone while students
crowded inside to see the television monitors; a young woman standing curbside
Everything that had seemed so normal now seemed so strange.
Saul D. Hoffman, chairperson of the Department of Economics
My day swung from incomprehension—literally—to deep personal understanding.
I remember Deborah Sharpley, one of our secretaries, rushing in to my office,
telling me that a plane had hit the WTC.
We streamed down to the conference room where we had a TV. We had no
sense at all of what it meant. Soon enough, we knew if meant something,
Even then, I had no sense of the enormity of the tragedy. Maybe civil
engineers knew at once what this meant for the towers, but I didn't.
When I returned home, there was an unexpected phone message from a colleague
at Georgetown University, someone I knew well enough, but who had no reason
to call me. He said that Leslie Whittington, a Georgetown economist who
was my coauthor on a textbook, her husband, and her two young daughters,
had been killed in the Pentagon plane crash. They were en route to Australia
where Leslie was to spend her sabbatical working on our book. The image
of Leslie and her husband doing what they must have done to comfort their
daughters haunted me for weeks.
David Hollowell, executive vice president and University treasurer
I was making a presentation to a group of Chilean educators in the Trabant
Center when word came that an airplane had struck one of the towers. The
first reaction was that it was a terrible accident. It was not until after
the presentations that I and others involved in the presentations learned
about the other planes and that it was a terrorist attack. I think anger
pretty well sums up my reaction.
Mark Huddleston, dean of the College of Arts & Science
I was sitting at my desk in my office. My first reaction was disbelief,
followed in short order by sadness and anger.
Laura LaPonte and Joanna Siroka, members of the Class of 2002
It was Sept. 11, and I was in the first class of my semester in London,
when we were told that the World Trade Center had fallen and our nation
had been attacked by terrorists.
First sight of the tragedy brought tears to my eyes and I remember looking
over at Joanna [Siroka] who had chosen that day to wear a shirt with the
name of her hometown, New York City, glittering across the front.
Initially, we were all angry to be so far from home and out of touch.
But, in time and with the kindness of the usually reserved English people,
we moved forward with our lives and experiences in Europe.
Sanford Robbins, director of the Professional Theatre Training Program
and chairperson of the Department of Theatre
I was in my car driving to the University listening to Howard Stern
on the radio, and I thought it was a hoax in very poor taste. Then listeners
began to call in and I realized that something—I was not entirely sure
what—was indeed happening. I turned my car around, drove back home and
turned on CNN.
In addition to my work at UD, I work as a consultant and program leader
with a company called Landmark Education whose New York offices were located
on the 15th floor of the World Trade Center. I felt certain that the 15-20
people I knew and loved there were dead, and I was a bit numb in the face
of that. (It turned out that miraculously no one was in the office at the
time of the event.)
After an hour of being glued to the television, I drove back to school
and interrupted PTTP classes to assemble all of our students and ensure
that they were informed and in communication with one another and me. I
then began to contact all of our graduates in New York and to ensure that
all were well—a process that wound up taking two weeks. Fortunately, none
were in the vicinity of the World Trade Center and all were, at least physically,
Nicole A. Sarrubbo, freshman in the College of Arts & Science
I am from a suburb in Westchester County in New York, and I was in our
third period English class when my principal announced that the United
States had just been attacked, both in New York City and in Washington,
I will never forget the sheer panic that ran through school. Our offices
opened up the phones to students to try and contact their family members
who worked at the World Trade Center.
It was so frightening to witness the panic and anguish that so many
of my classmates were experiencing as they worried about their families’
Harry Shipman, Annie Jump Cannon Professor of Astronomy
I was actually on a plane, in the air, when the Trade Center was hit—though
I didn't find out what was going on until hours later.
I was flying to Chicago for a conference on space science education,
planning to get there a day or so early because I wanted to see the largest
T. Rex skeleton around.
My plane landed in Chicago around 11 a.m. Central time, and until I
got off the plane, I had no idea that anything strange had happened. The
pilot just told us that because our gate was occupied we were going to
have to use the stairs.
Once I got in the airport, it was obvious that something was wrong.
The only plane moving had an Air Canada logo on its tail, and the screens
said a lot of flights were canceled. However, the airport authorities had
turned off all of the TV sets, which usually carry CNN.
I heard one person at the airport say that the Trade Center had been
hit. I really didn't believe this and thought it was some strange rumor.
When I got onto the Chicago Transit Authority train that took me to downtown
Chicago, I heard a few more people talking about it and then became convinced.
I only got some fragmentary glances at TV until late in the afternoon because
so many staff had quit the hotel that my room wasn’t ready until 4 p.m.
So, I have this funny feeling that I was one of the last people to be fully
I remember wandering around Chicago feeling very depressed and confused.
The city was completely shut down. The weirdest thing was that there was
not a single plane in the sky. Later, once it became clearer who did it,
these feelings turn into shock and, yes, anger at those responsible.
April Veness, associate professor of geography and human resources,
education and public policy
It is not hard at all to remember the details of that morning.
Unlike some of my students and the two teaching assistants in my 11:15
a.m., human geography course, I had not listened to the news before heading
to class and knew nothing of the attack on the first tower as I lectured
to my class of about 150 students.
As far as I knew it was an ordinary day with the usual array of attentive
and selected sleepy students out in front of me.
My TAs were there, but neither drew me aside ahead of my lecture to
talk about the event. No doubt, they thought I already knew what had happened/was
happening and were respectfully stepping back to let me handle it as I
saw fit in the classroom.
For the students in the room who sat through an animated lecture with
no reference whatsoever to the shocking events taking place outside the
classroom, I am sure that I looked like a person from another planet. Only
afterwards did my TAs ask me if I had “heard the news.”
“One of the World Trade Towers was attacked.” (We did not yet know of
the second attack which happened, I believe, while we were in class).
As we walked away from Kirkbride, and I listened to the tiny bits of
information that my TAs had at their disposal, it took all my might to
understand the immensity of the event and maintain my ability to put one
foot in front of the other.
Running through my head was the sense that I had just failed to “be
there, be aware” for my students. It bothered me a lot that I had not known
about the first attack at the time of my lecture, that I stood there in
front of those dutiful and possibly numb students for 50 minutes talking
about whatever it was that was scheduled.
On the other hand, I recall vividly my five-minute walk across campus
with my TAs. The mere physical presence of these two knowledgeable, strong
young men by my side gave me comfort, support, and guidance. I don't think
I ever thanked them, or thanked my geography and communications colleagues
back on the second floor of Pearson Hall for their presence over the next
two shocking hours as more and more news came in.
By the time I headed to my next class at 2 p.m., I was prepared to be
a better role model.
No lecture there.
Along with the handful of students who attended that class, we talked.
We talked about whatever came into our minds, whatever needed to be aired.
And we felt. We felt the experience wash over us, felt our vulnerability,
felt grateful that there were other people around us and that we had a
place to be together—not alone.