As the United States honors the 14-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Valparaiso University faculty and staff members recalled their own memories of that day.
Assistant professor of English George Potter was a senior at Indiana State University at the time. He recalled that on the morning of the attacks, he was sitting in a class on Shakespeare, and said he and his classmates were unaware of the events that had just occurred in New York.
“When I came out, people were talking in the halls about some big deal and I had no idea what was happening,” Potter said.
It wasn’t until Potter returned to his dorm room that he saw the media coverage of the attacks on television. Potter, who worked for his school’s newspaper, immediately headed to the office, where he said other students were already putting together a special edition of the paper.
Potter, who had studied abroad in Italy the previous semester, was assigned to get in contact with other students studying abroad, and to get their reactions. He said he’ll never forget what the director of the AHA International program said to him.
“I’ll always remember him saying, ‘On a day like today, our students in other countries are safer than the ones in New York,’” Potter said.
Peter Lutze, a professor in the communication department, had a similar experience.
Lutze was teaching a course in media studies at Boise State University when the news broke. He said that while he and others were watching the developing story on CNN, they saw the second plane crash into the North Tower.
“At that point we knew that this was not just a goofy pilot or someone who was drunk or whatever, that it was more of a kamikazi kind of thing,” Lutze said.
Lutze recalled people being “shocked and upset,” and said many people “thought the world would never be the same again.”
He particularly remembered the months immediately following the incident, however, and compared the atmosphere in the nation to that which followed the first Gulf War.
“You really felt that if you were opposed to a government policy, then you really were considered to be a traitor,” Lutze said.
Paul Oren, a professor in the communication department, was a senior at Valpo and a DJ for the campus radio station, WVUR-FM 95.1.
On the morning of Sept. 11, he and a fellow student were hosting a morning show when they received a phone call from the station’s general manager, who told them a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.
Oren said the two DJs didn’t grasp the seriousness of the situation at the time because there were no televisions in Schnabel Hall, where the station was located. When the general manager called back with information about the second tower falling, Oren and his co-host immediately began reporting.
“I think it hit (my co-host) before it hit me what this meant,” Oren said.
He added that over the next six hours, every WVUR manager came to the station to help gather information to be broadcast. One student, whose father worked in New York, came to help out and keep himself busy until he eventually heard from his dad.
“Everyone in the country felt useless that day, and this was a way for us to not feel useless,” Oren said.
It wasn’t until he got home later that day that Oren turned on his television and saw the images he had spent the morning talking about. He said he spent about half an hour crying, then went to cover the vigil being hosted by the Chapel of the Resurrection.
The biggest difference Oren said he noticed in the aftermath of the attacks was how frequently he paid attention to planes passing overhead.
While driving in Chicago the next weekend, Oren was sitting in traffic when an airplane flew overhead in the direction of the Sears tower. He recalled feeling nervous and “shaking.”
“In that moment I thought, ‘We’re never gonna be safe again,’” Oren said.
Contact Stacy McKeigue at firstname.lastname@example.org.