September 11, 2001, is a day most of us will never forget. You probably remember where you were and what you were doing when you learned of the terrorist attacks. As the fifteenth anniversary approaches, we share some of your recollections of that day:
Stephanie Robertson, a first-year graduate student in the College of Architecture and Design, was a high school freshman in northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.
She remembers that word began trickling in about the attacks during her first-period English class, but no one was aware of the gravity of the situation.
“The next class was PE and it was not at all normal. We were told not to dress out, to just sit and wait on the gym floor. The principal came over the loudspeaker and announced what happened. He told us that they would be carefully releasing students only to their parents. He didn’t explain that this was because nobody knew where the third plane was.
“Kids were crying and using the pay phone in the hallway. Some people had parents who worked in the Pentagon and nobody’s cell phones were working, if they had one.”
Robertson was worried about her father, whose work often took him to the Pentagon. Luckily, he hadn’t gone that day; her parents picked her up a short while later.
“As a young person, never had I felt so much for my country in that day or the days to follow . . . . It’s sad how time makes people forget. I could never forget that day.”
Rob Lieberthal, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health, was living and working in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. He was home sick that day and, although he’d seen some news reports, didn’t realize the seriousness of the events.
“I actually had a doctor’s appointment, and decided to go despite what was happening. My doctor was sitting in his office taking phone calls and waiting for patients to come in to the hospital from the attack. As we sat there, and the patients never arrived, we started to realize the magnitude of what was taking place.”
Marie Parigin, an accounting specialist in Industrial and Systems Engineering, was a senior in high school.
“The morning announcements usually came on about 9:40 a.m. followed by the Pledge of Allegiance,” she said. Instead, one of the school administrators said, “Let’s have a moment of silence for this awful tragedy.”
“Everyone was confused, but when the teacher turned on the TV, the whole class went silent. I saw the first tower fall, then the second. I was in shock and so was everyone else. We did nothing the rest of the class period or in any of my other class periods but watch the events unfold on the TV.”
Jennifer Flatford, executive assistant to the dean in the College of Architecture and Design, was a senior at Central High School in Knoxville, but was home sick.
“As I lay in bed, my mom called me to tell me about the attack. I turned on the TV and began watching the coverage on the Today show just as the second plane hit the South Tower. I remember how terrified I was then and how my feelings were minuscule compared to those witnessing it firsthand in their own backyard.
“Upon learning about the flight heading toward the Pentagon, I called my mother frantically because her boyfriend worked in the Pentagon. After several minutes of unsuccessful attempts to reach him, he called my mother to let her know he was safe. He had just left that side of the Pentagon minutes before the plane crashed.”
Alumna Michelle Mokry, a project coordinator for Smee+Busby Architects, worked at UT from March 2015 to June 2016 as a project manager for the Appalachia Grant to improve the health of people in Clay County̍ Kentucky. On September 11, 2001, she was a third-year architecture student and was in her History of Architecture class.
“When we got out of class everybody was saying something really bad had happened . . . . the architecture administrative office had pulled in portable TVs and were watching the news nonstop.”
Classes were canceled soon afterward.
“I did not live on campus but I did not feel like driving back to my apartment alone. I went back to Andy Holt Tower to my friend’s apartment and watched the news. We saw the second tower fall on TV. I just remember crying and crying and being in shock. ”
Andy White, director of the Aerospace and Defense Business Institute in the Haslam College of Business, was an Air Force major on active duty at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
“I was reviewing material I was going to use to deliver a lecture to military students at Air University about military media relations and wartime propaganda,” he said. “We had a TV in the open office area. With each development, we would get in front of the TV to see what was happening. By the time I delivered the lecture later that day, it was clear that war was upon us.
“I ended up deploying to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia a couple weeks later. I spent three months contributing strategy suggestions and combat information to leaders at US Central Command and the Pentagon.”