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Six Brown alumni lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and eleven lost members of their immediate families as a result of the attacks. At least one alum was killed at each of the attack sites. Raymond J. Rocha ’95, Joanne E. Weil ’84, and Paul Sloan ’97 were at work in the World Trade Center when a pair of jets slammed into the Twin Towers. Sloan had called home to reassure family that he was safe because he was not in the first tower hit. Then the second plane struck.

9-11_wallsigning.jpg
John Abromowski
A student writes a message on the memorial wall erected on the main Green in the week after the attacks. 
David W. Laychak ’83 was in his office on the first floor of the Pentagon when a plane exploded into it. Donald F. Green ’71, a skilled pilot, was on Pan Am flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania; his family believes that, had the passengers succeeded in overpowering the hijackers that day, he would have been able to fly the airliner to safety. And Charles J. Margiotta ’79, a lieutenant with the New York City Fire Department, was among the first responders buried in the collapse of the towers. Read their stories here . Read a Huffington Post profile of Margiotta here .

Alumni were also among the rescuers. In addition to Margiotta, who was one of the 343 New York City firefighters who died that day, Dan Hanfling ’92 MD took his Virginia-based Federal Emergency Management Agency into the scorched, collapsed cavity the attackers had carved into the Pentagon. Dan Avstreih ’98, ’02 MD spent two weeks at Ground Zero with a Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team that included more than a dozen Brown faculty, staff, medical students, and alumni.

The events of that day left the rest of us staring in dismay and horror at our computer screens, television sets, and radios. Ten years ago, the BAM told the story of that day and its immediate aftermath through the eyes of alumni who ran free of the towers or responded by trying to rescue whomever they could. We described the response by faculty, staff, and worried students on campus. We told the stories of the alumni who died.

On September 11, 2001, some of us wondered about the safety of relatives in New York City. No Brown students lost family members that day, but Chris Senio ’04, overslept and woke up to the news that One World Trade Center, the office building where his father, Ron Senio ’66, worked, had been attacked. In a pair of BAM essays, the two described how they tried to find each other. On that day an entire generation that had never known violence on a mass scale was changed forever.

I worried about my brother-in law, whose office was in the complex. He’d been there for the 1993 bombing, and it frightened me to weigh the odds of someone escaping two terrorist attacks. I phoned my sister to see if she’d heard from him. He’d been told to sit tight, she said, however he was leaving. Later he called on his cell phone to say he was safe on a ferry to New Jersey—but the image of men and women leaping to their death will always be seared in his memory. His building was destroyed. The paperwork on his desk, the photos of their kids, are gone.

The students in this year’s incoming class, the class of 2015, were just eight years old at the time of the attacks. Soon Brown students will learn about September 11, 2001, as an event in U.S. history. My own daughter, who is thirteen years old, has no clear memory of that day. So after attending her orientation at middle school this year, I was surprised to hear her ask what I had been doing the morning of 9/11.

“It’s for school,” she said. “We have to interview three people about what they remember from that day.” Interestingly, the assignment is part of a curriculum called Choices, which was designed at Brown’s Watson Institute for International Studies to help teachers integrate historically relevant topics into their curricula.

As my daughter quizzed me about that day, I was grateful for the opportunity to recall that postcard-perfect morning: the air was crisp, the sun warm, and the sky a cloudless, crystalline blue. Watching the second plane hit the tower on television, I remember numbness giving way to slow realization that something was seriously wrong, that this was no accident but an attack, that these planes and the innocent people sitting in them were being used as bombs. The safety net that we believe protected all of us turned out to have a gaping hole.

We all know how that day unfolded: the Twin Towers fell, taking with them 2,753 lives. Another forty victims died in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, while 184 people were killed at the Pentagon. Ten years ago, before there was a War on Terror, the idea of an enemy without home, an enemy hidden in caves and sleeper cells, would have seemed bizarre. Not so today. We are all fluent in the language of terrorism now. Our illusion of safety has been shattered. At airports we willingly slip off our shoes and hand TSA agents our toiletries in quart-size plastic bags. While waiting for planes, we keep an eye out for unaccompanied bags and shady characters. Our vocabulary has expanded to include words such as drone strikes and waterboarding, and we speculate what will happen now that both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are dead. Are we winning the War on Terror?

My daughter inherits a world far less certain than the one I inhabited at her age. For her middle-school project, I told her about my memories of September 11, 2001. What I didn’t tell her was how wistful those memories made me. We all lost our innocence that crystalline morning, and I wish I could bring it back—for her, at least.

What do you remember from 9/11? Tell us what you were doing, how you felt, and how your own lives have been changed. Leave your comments in the space below.







Comments (10)
09/08/11
 
I was laid off from a job on 9/10. Couldn't feel too bad when I woke up on 9/11, turned on the TV and saw that 3,000 people had gotten a rather more abrupt layoff notice than I did!
 
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09/10/11
 
It was my senior year at Brown, and I was on my way onto campus for a 10:30am class. It was a perfect fall day and I was in a great mood. The DJs on the radio were talking about a fire at the Pentagon. As I pulled into the parking lot they did a recap of the morning's news, including the two planes that had hit the towers and early reports that the fire in Washington was due to a third plane. I went straight to Faunce House to watch the news and joined a packed crowd downstairs. We saw the first tower collapse on tv. I'll never forget the horror, the sound in that room, the disbelief. I'll never forget the hush on the main green as students leaving their 9am classes, unaware of what was happening, encountered those of us walking, stunned, to our 10:30 meeting spots. I'll also never forget the camaraderie on campus that day and in the weeks to come.
 
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09/13/11
 
As with many on the west coast, by the time I heard the news on the car radio around 8:00 AM PDT (11:00 AM EDT), the major events of that day were already over. I tuned in the news o hear the local announcer in San Jose talking about the possibility of evacuating buildings downtown higher than 15 stories, and then they switched to CNN for more coverage of the days events. I remember listening with rapt attention and complete disbelief. I pulled myself together and phoned a few people at work whom I knew were supposed to be getting on airplanes that morning, to tell them they'd be grounded if they weren't already aware. Most had not heard about what was going on, so I got to be the bearer of the news. When I got to work, everyone was crowded around the TV watching the live coverage and taped replays. No one was talking. No one was looking at each other out of fear of breaking down. We tried to go about our business, but everyone was completely numb. We all checked in with loved ones to account for their safety. We were fortunate in that no one from our company perished, and only a small number of friends or relatives did. In the weeks and months that followed, the depression, fear, anger, and sense of hopelessness was palpable. Ten years on, much has changed for the better, but the memories are still very fresh, clear, and painful.
 
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09/13/11
 
Around 8:30 I arrived at my office on the fourth floor of a building in Purchase, NY. Shortly thereafter, somebody announced that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We could see the towers on the horizon from our office windows because our building was on a small hill. I went to the window to look and saw some black smoke blowing sideways from the towers. I was surprised to see that the weather was clear over NYC, and wondered how a plane could have hit the building. 
 
One of my co-workers called our office near the top of Two WTC to find out which tower had been hit. She reached an employee and learned that the other tower had been hit. We were relieved. She said the PA system was telling everybody not to evacuate, but to stay put, so thats what they were doing. 
 
A few minutes after hanging up we learned that the other tower had been hit, the one with our employees. It became clear that this was a terrorist attack and not some accident. I went to the window and saw much more black smoke pouring from the buildings. 
 
Somebody said there was a television in the offices of a neighboring company, so I went over and watched for a few minutes. When I went back to our office, nobody was working. Everybody was distracted by these events. 
 
Then came the news that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. We were clearly under a coordinated attack, and I wondered when this was going to end. What other landmarks had been targeted? How many more were going to die? What could we do to stop this? 
 
After a little while, somebody mentioned that one of the WTC towers had collapsed. I looked out the window and saw a huge amount of brownish smoke and dust rising from lower Manhattan in a wide inverted cone. 
 
I went to briefly watch the television, and saw reruns of the collapse. I found out that it was tower two that had collapsed, the one with our employees in it. I went back into our office, and some of the women were crying, knowing we our WTC employees were probably dead. As a part-time pastor I realized I needed to do something, so I went into our CEOs office and asked if I could have a time of prayer for anybody who would like to participate. He agreed. 
 
I said a prayer and then had a moment of silence. I finally reached my wife and told her to turn on the TV. Then I left for home to be with her since she was very upset. On the way home I heard that a plane had crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania. Was this ever going to end?
 
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09/13/11
 
I went into the church office and was startled to see all eyes on the TV monitor. We were all shocked, in a state of disbelief. At some point, we went to the pastor's office for prayer. I remember knowing that our lives here in the U.S. would never be the same again. Certainly, for the immediate victims and their families. But also for us as a nation: we would respond. How? We could retaliate. How? Would we set into motion more of the same? I feared for us.
 
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09/14/11
 
I was a senior at Brown, living in Young O. I woke up early, around 6A. It was bright in the apartment-- the sun streamed in. I cooked a pot of oatmeal, and ate some of it while reading a chapter from The Tale of Genji. I took my time. I loved morning quiet.  
 
My roommates were still asleep. I turned on my laptop and bought an airline ticket back to Honolulu, my hometown, for Thanksgiving. During my entire time at Brown, I had never gone home for Thanksgiving-- this was a splurge. What felt like only seconds after I pressed the enter button to purchase my ticket, one of my roommates started screaming, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God," and I ran out of my room to see if she was okay. She clutched a telephone in one hand and desperately tried to turn on the television. Her sister had called from New York City, she explained. That was all she could say.  
 
And there was the first tower, hurt. I don't remember if the second tower had yet been hit. I don't think it had been yet. My roommates and I stood in our living room and saw everything unfold on television, but I don't have a clear recollection of witnessing anything. I guess I've blocked it from my memory. 
 
I do remember sitting on a bench outside the chemistry building later that day. I couldn't stop crying. I knew no one personally who had been in the towers, in any of the hijacked flights, or were first responders, and knew no one who had family or friends who were hurt. But I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't stop grieving. I felt as if I did know them; their loss overpowered me. Sometime while I was sitting out there, Professor Levy walked by, and without a word, stopped and hugged me.  
 
I remember that I so desperately wanted to be with my family. Immediately. That it wasn't worth it to be in Rhode Island, to be at Brown, to be anywhere that wasn't back home.
 
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09/14/11
 
I had done my morning work-out at the Westside Y and had gone for breakfast before heading to the Real Estate Board for some property researches. I am a real estate broker. 
Leaving the restaurant a block north of the ABC building, I was headed south for the subway but saw a group of people intently watching a large screen at the front of ABC's entrance. I asked what was going-on and was told that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. Of course it was quite unbelievable, as the sky was as clear as could be. My mind went numb as I continued on to the Real Estate Board, where, with all others, I watched news coverage for the next few hours. We saw the 2nd plane crash into the 2nd tower and then knew, without doubt, that it was the beginning of a WAR!! 
Later, as I walked back to my car to return to my home in the Bronx, I was crossing Central Park and thinking about the future. My thought was that the USA would finally be forced to "LISTEN".  
 
I'm a Social Studies graduate from Brown University, returning as a "resumed student" at the age of 43. I returned, not to get a better job, but to better understand a confusing world. I learned that the USA, with 4% of the world's population, consumed 40% of the world's non-replenishable natural resources. I learned a lot more but mostly importantly, I learned to "think critically": not "criticizing", but "critiquing". On Graduation day, as I was in the shower preparing for a day in which my family and friends would ask about what had I learned during the past four years, I had an epiphany: I realized that I had learned to ask better questions.  
Before returning to school, I didn't understand the world, nor did I know what questions to ask in order to learn - but now I knew. You ask the right questions and then you listen.  
9/11 happened because the USA never asked and never listened because it didn't cared about others.  
 
So now, walking across the park, I thought that perhaps the USA is being forced to ask the right questions, listen to the responses, and come up with some right answers. But what did we do? 
No questions, no listening, only WAR.
 
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09/14/11
 
I arrived at a hotel in Bilbao Spain with the TV blazing with news of the attack on the towers. While we understood enough Spanish to realize the infamy, we rushed to our rooms for an english version. The toughing part of our journey was later on the next day when the town's people felt very sorry for americans and in front of a church in some sort of a town square they held a short but meaningfull service. Very very touching. We all said a prayer, and I was left with a question in my mind - will we really get to the bottom of this?
 
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09/15/11
 
I was in my final semester at Brown, sitting at a computer cluster in the Rock working on my thesis when I heard what was going on. I immediately ran into a friend who was worried about her father (he worked in the WTC) and walked her home. I then tracked down another friend of mine (Brown '04) at his off-campus house. We spent all day sitting together with his housemates, watching the news. Three days later we started dating, spurred in part by the emotions brought up on 9/11. We just had our 10th relationship anniversary yesterday and will be celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary in November.
 
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09/16/11
 
My wife Jean Goodman '95 gave birth to our first son on 9/10/11 on the Upper East side in Manhattan. On 9/11/11 we walked home from the hospital to make room for victims of the attacks...Ben Goodman '94
 
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