9/11, in their words

Members of the Northeastern community share their memories of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Tom Quinn
Lead Day Stacks Maintenance Assistant, University Libraries
Location on 9/11: Providence, R.I.

I remember watching the news in the school cafeteria. I was a senior in high school and had heard rumors in the hallway about the first plane crashing. I was already back in class by the time the second plane hit. For a while, no one knew what had happened and a lot of people were worried about their families. Some of my classmates had aunts and uncles who worked in New York. The school had three or four grief counselors ready by the end of the day.

The whole day was unreal. It barely seems like it has been 10 years already.

Lindsey Broderick
Fourth-year civil engineering major
Location on 9/11: Suburb of Chicago, Ill.

I remember a lot of confusion. There were rumors that something happened, but nothing was confirmed. I was in sixth grade and the teachers were told not to tell us anything about the attacks. Eventually, one teacher did let us know what was going on and we turned on the TV around mid-morning. Our school went into full lockdown because we were near a military base in Illinois and at that point no one knew what or where the targets were. My parents picked me up at school, but I can’t remember if that was because of the lockdown or if it was their decision. My mom was in Florida for business that day, which made the whole day even more hectic. It wasn’t until I got home that I really started to understand what had happened.

I’ll always be able to remember what happened. Knowing what I know now, I think it was a turning point in history. A lot has come out of that day that changed things in the United States and around the world.

Walter Robinson
Distinguished Professor of Journalism
Location on 9/11: Boston, Mass.

For journalists like myself, 9/11 was an enormous personal and professional challenge — trying to report on the most horrific event of all of our lives while trying our best to maintain our composure. At the time, the investigative team at The Boston Globe, which I headed, was in the early stages of reporting on the widespread sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, a series we did not begin publishing until January 2002. But when the attacks happened, everyone at the paper put aside what they were doing to focus full-time on the tragedy.

Our investigative team spent nearly two months on the attacks, focusing much of our attention on how they could have happened, how the terrorists were able to remain undetected for so long, and the many chinks in our security armor that helped facilitate the attacks. It was a most difficult task, made more challenging because of the emotion we felt for the victims and their families and friends.

Ivelisse Hernandez
Manager, Columbus Cafe
Location on 9/11: Boston, Mass.

I was at the hospital getting a routine procedure when a nurse came running in and screamed, ‘They hit one of the towers!’ All of us went to a nearby room to watch it all on TV and then the plane hit the second tower. I immediately called my children, who were also in Boston and said, ‘I need to be near you,’ but we couldn’t get to each other because public transportation was shut down at that point.

I can never, ever forget that day. Everyone in New York was running around and the people were falling from the buildings like little birds or leaves — it was horrible.

Michael Pollastri
Professor of Chemistry
Location on 9/11: Groton, Conn.

I remember 9/11/01 as a day that I left for work admiring the clear blue sky during my commute. Mid-morning, I watched the events unfold on an enormous TV screen, along with hundreds of my colleagues, looking at each other in stunned silence, wondering what was next. In the days and weeks afterwards, I would listen to the personal stories from families of the missing, and I will always remember the heartbreak I felt for them.

I have thought of 9/11 on every crisp, blue sky day since then, reflecting on the uncertainty of all of our day-to-day lives, and how we should appreciate and cherish our friends and loved ones.

Jordana Torres
Senior organizational communications major
Location on 9/11: Garden City Park, Long Island, N.Y.

I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that there was a terrorist attack in New York City. I was confused why they were giving us so much information. TVs were wheeled into a classroom and we watched the news with about 60 other students from other classes. Since we lived just 30 minutes from the city, a lot of people’s families and friends worked in Manhattan. Anyone who wanted to call home could go down to the office.

At 12, you don’t understand how big of a deal it was. You don’t know what al-Qaida was, you don’t know who Osama bin Laden was. It took me a while to really understand. One of my first questions was just, ‘Why? Why would they do this?’ I remember talking to my mom about it and she said there are bad people out there who don’t like Americans.