“The world that I knew that morning was gone”: MTSU community reflects on 9/11


In honor of the 18th Anniversary of 9/11, MTSU Sidelines has asked for the members of the MTSU Community to share their memories of where they were on that fateful day. Below are quotes from current students, alumni, and parents, photos from MTSU faculty member Nathan Wahl, and features articles from the September 12, 2001 edition of Sidelines, which can be read in full here.

 

“I was walking into my Spanish 2 class as a sophomore in high school. What we saw on the news was so surreal that we didn’t believe it was actually happening. It didn’t really sink in until about 3 hours later when we were sent home early and watched the news for the rest of the day, seeing all the devastation and sadness made it real and unforgettable.”

John Goodwin

Photo courtesy of Nathan Wahl

“My Mother was driving me to school. I remember the street we were on when we heard about the first tower on the radio. I don’t know why I still went to school that day, but I remember walking in to my 5th grade classroom and the TV was on. The second tower had been hit. We watched the coverage the whole school day, glued to the screen and crying. I went home and asked my parents if this meant that no one would come to my Birthday party the next day. I remember feeling sick as soon as the words left my mouth. Mind you, I was 10 about to turn 11 on the 12th. I understood the gravity of the situation (as much as a 10 year-old could be expected to) but I was still a kid who wanted her friends to show up at the roller rink. My parents answered me kindly and honestly and I will forever appreciate that.”

 Caitlin Thompson

 

“I was at work. I worked at a bookstore, and that morning I had opened the store. There was not a television in the store, and we had music on from satellite radio, so we weren’t listening to live radio. The first inkling I had that something was wrong was when another employee told me his sister called him and told him a plane had crashed into the twin towers. I remember thinking that was awful. I was thinking it must have been some kind of mechanical problem. Gradually, we became aware of what was going on. Our store manager went out and bought a small television, which we plugged in and watched as we could throughout the day. By the time I left work that day, I had the beginning of a migraine. I will never forget that day and the gradual realization that someone had committed such horrific acts in our country. The feeling of safety we generally felt before that day was forcibly taken from us. I don’t think we can ever feel that way again. It was a devastating, dark time.”

Diana Adams

 

“I was three, turning four the next month. This is a memory I will always remember vividly from my childhood. My mom was getting my sister and I ready for preschool that morning and my nana yelled to her to turn the TV on. She wouldn’t let us watch it because she didn’t know what was going on but I heard the yelling of the people on the news when the plane struck the tower. My dad was in Texas at the time for Air Force training. We couldn’t get in contact with him for over a week. I just kept asking my mom “Is daddy okay?” I don’t remember a lot of that day but I was very scared and wanted my dad home.”

Alena Clary

“I was in my 8th grade classroom when there was a school announcement. My father currently worked for the Pentagon and I remember being brought to the office with my sister and waiting four hours to find out if he was alive or dead. School let out but they couldn’t reach my parents due to the phone connections being so busy. I remember sitting there with the principle and my seven year-old sister, watching the TV as the towers fell and the Pentagon burned. I will never forget that day and the dread I felt as young teenager wondering if my father survived. He lived through it, but his office was destroyed. If he had been in his office, he would have died. I am forever grateful for all the men and women who gave their lives that day to save so many others in need.”

Rachel Booger

Photo courtesy of Nathan Wahl

“I was actually a student at MTSU and going to class that morning. We went in and our teacher actually turned on the news in our class. I was surreal and scary to watch what was unfolding. I think they actually suspended classes for the rest of the day. I remember feeling a sense that the world was truly different now and would never be the same.”

Danielle Lee

“I was in my room at Scarlett Commons and got an AOL message from a friend to turn on the TV. I remember my first class was Honors Audio for Media and the teacher let us into the conference room to watch the TV. After that class I made my way to the JUB where I worked at Sidelines and a LONG day and night of investigating, interviewing students, reaching out to students in NY for interviews ensued. That was a crazy and hard day to be in the media.”

Becky Lanham

“In 2001, I was a stay at home mom of six  kids. I was home with two sick kids they were in 5th and 7th grade watching a cable show. My husband called and said turn on the news. I sat there numb to what I was watching. Then in days to follow with no airplanes in the skies.”

Chris Pittman Rhodes, Class of 2017

“I was sitting in my kindergarten class when our teacher turned on the news. I remember watching the TV as the news continued to replay the videos of both Boeing 767. I remember tears falling down my eyes because I was living in Illinois at the time, and I had no idea where my mother was. I was living with my grandmother because my mother and father were both active duty military. I was in complete fear because I could not remember where my mother was stationed. I could not remember if she was in the country or out of the country. I had no idea if she was on a plane. I had no idea if she was near New York. So many thoughts ran through my brain that day. Fear took over my body as a kindergarten. This was the moment I realized how serious my mother’s job was. I believe this was the beginning of me coming overprotective of her, and constantly worrying about where she is. Even to this day, I get nervous when my mom does not pick up her phone or forgets it because this day taught me, you never know what is going to happen when you leave your house. This day changed me. My love and appreciation for all first responders is real. I make sure each year, I take time to remember those that risk their lives for us every day without a second thought.”

Rachel Barrow

“I remember being at my mental health private practice and coming out of the room when my office manager said “America is under attack.” I still remember the patient’s name and fact it was a pretty fall day. It was terrifying and seemed surreal as we got into our cars to leave early. I remember finding my kids (current MTSU students) and being glued that day to the TV for more details. It seemed unbelievable this could happen and America lost part of its innocence that day. The country came together, however. Through the years I have had the privilege of counseling many who were in NY or the Pentagon that day and the months to follow. I have heard many stories of unsung heroes and the impact this event had in them as they were in the path of destruction. I have worked with many thousands of miles away from the locations who say it changed their life forever and they take nothing for granted, especially loved ones. We were greatly impacted by this event and hope we never ever go through another.”

Myra Young Miller, Class of 1983

Photo courtesy of Nathan Wahl

“I was in kindergarten, I don’t have any memory of the events, but I know something bad happened. I think it was a couple of years before I completely understood the gravity of that day.”

Jamison Burner

“I was in 4th grade and taking 5th grade classes. We were in language arts/reading, and one of the 5th grade teachers went running down the hall yelling for the teachers to turn on their TVs. He had seen the initial coverage because he kept the news on all day. No one knew what was happening. My teacher turned her TV on just in time for the second plane to hit. We watched for a few minutes, and then my teacher turned her TV off. We sat in the floor and said a prayer. No one knew what to do.”

Kelly Mayo

“I was in 3rd grade. My mom was supposed to be on a plane to Philadelphia that morning. I remember my class being combined with two others. We got extended recess while the teachers talked in the corner. I remember being worried because they seemed scared. My mom picked me up early. My big sister was crying because she thought our mom was dead (she saw the Philadelphia plane crash on TV at school). My mom ended up having a slightly later than planned flight so she saw it at the airport, left, and came straight to pick us up from school. We watched the news that day. I remember that being the moment I learned that not all people are good and sometimes horrible things happen.”

Peyton Johnson

“I had graduated high school in August 2001 and signed up for the Air Force. I was waiting around for my time to leave, and so I took a job in Winchester, TN as a lifeguard. We were there with the morning water aerobics folks. We were all pretty relaxed and commenting on how gorgeous the day was with the patrons. In rushes, a lady who was pretty notorious for exaggeration and generating drama around the area (screamed) “We’re under attack! They have hit New York and taken out the Pentagon!” We did a polite “Ok, thank you, have a good day.” Because it was so outlandish. But after about 5 minutes we got curious. Walked out heading to the main office and everyone, about 15 people, were gathered around the radio. I knew then what she was saying was true. I left out for Basic Training 3 weeks later.”

Brad Wright, Class of 2008

Photo courtesy of Nathan Wahl

“I was in fourth grade. We were in the computer lab when a teacher walked in to tell our teacher what happened (at the time we still didn’t know) our teacher fought back tears when she then paused our lesson and tried to explain to 9-10 year olds the events that just transpired. I was back in my classroom when the second plane crashed. My teacher turned on the TV and then we prayed as a school, together. At this time students began to check out of the school at a rapid pace. My mom was a school counselor at another school and my dad worked over an hour away so I could not go home. By lunch time I was one of 3 students left in my classroom. At the end of the day in my town there were miles long of people getting gas. I remember being so confused as to why and what happened during that day. I remember lying in bed with my mom that night watching the news. We both cried, I think I cried more because I was so confused of the hatred surrounding our country. I have a vivid memory laying in bed with her and seeing people jump from the twin towers. It is an image that will forever be ingrained in my head.”

Lena Rose Pierce

“I was getting my daughter ready for preschool–she was 3. She is now a junior at MTSU and in the ROTC program and the National Guard. I had to go to work and was so scared to leave her. Funny she would now do whatever she had to too defend this great country.”

Hope Harrison

“I was probably one, about to turn two. I was too young to really remember everything, but I remember hearing my parents talking about it and them crying.”

Ashlee Tomlinson

“I was in kindergarten and I remember they had us all sit in a semicircle around the tv that was mounted on the back wall, and we sat and watched and our teacher explained to us what was going on and then it was completely silent as we watched the towers fall. Our parents started to show up at the point to check us out so they could hold us tight.”

Katelynn Massey

“I was in kindergarten! My mom was doing my hair before school. We ended up not going to school that day. I just remember it being tense in the house as my parents looked at the news. So weird that I remember those details, but I could never tell you exactly how I felt. I’m sure I didn’t fully grasp what was going on!”

Janita Hendricks

Photo courtesy of Nathan Wahl

“I was five. The kindergarten I was in only did half days, so I was at school in the morning if I remember correctly. I have vivid memory of sitting in my living room looking at the TV and I remember being very confused about what was going on (cause you know, I was five). Weirdly, I don’t remember school being canceled the next day, I don’t really remember adults around me being afraid or sad (not to say they weren’t—I just don’t remember). Every year I think back and just have that glimpse of vivid memory sitting in my living room.”

Robyn Michelle Sessler

“On 9/11, I was at my Womack Lane Apartment with my 1 year-old daughter. I was a single mom of two. My son was in first grade at Hobgood. I was in my senior year at MTSU. I didn’t even know anything was going on until my ex-husband called to check on us. He told me to turn on the TV and that’s how I found out. I was scared for my family and our country. I didn’t personally know anyone in the attacks, but the whole country grieved and was in fear.”

Tina Frensley Findley

“I was in science class, and the teacher announced that something terrible happened, he wasn’t supposed to talk about it with us, but he was going to anyway. He turned the news on and we all watched in silence for an entire hour before school dismissed us early.”

 Bryanna Licciardi

“I was at my home in Georgia when my realtor called and told me to turn on the tv. I was watching as the second plane hit. Still seems surreal. So much changed after that moment. At the time we had no idea why these planes had hit the towers. It wasn’t till the other planes came down that a terrorist attack was thought to be the cause. Horrible times. Glued to the TV in shock over what was occurring. ”

Carol Siflinger

“I was in my 7th grade pre-algebra class and I remember just feeling frozen and so afraid of what was going to happen next. That feeling of the unknown was so scary. I remember our teacher turning off the TV and telling us not to panic, but none of us could focus on anything the rest of the day.”

Mary Elizabeth Hill

“I am one of the generations that don’t remember, but I am the last generation that was at least alive. I was a little under a year old and my grandparents were watching me. My mom and dad were at work. My dad worked at Fort Knox so he was one of the first to know. He called and told us all to be at my grandparent’s house and they watched it on TV. They said they cried because I was still laughing and playing with my toys without even knowing what was happening in the world and they were scared for me.”

Briana Sands

Photo courtesy of Nathan Wahl

“Hi! I was in Kindergarten. What was special and memorable for me was that my grandparents were in Pennsylvania. They saw the third plane not many people remember go down.”

April Carroll

“I was in sixth grade, and I was home sick with strep throat. I was sitting on the couch watching Regis and Kelly, my favorite show to watch whenever I was sick, when the show was interrupted with the breaking news. I remember running upstairs to get my mom. We had just vacationed in New York City a few months before and had visited the towers, so I knew what they were. I was eleven years old and terrified. I couldn’t understand what was happening—I just knew it was bad.”

Megan Hamby

“I was living in the suburbs of New York City at the time. My mom came to pick us up from school early and nearly got trapped on the other side of the Hudson River because they shut down all the bridges. Most TV and radio stations were down because the signal was routed through the antenna at the World Trade Center. You couldn’t get through if you tried to make a phone call because the phone lines were so busy. Fighter jets enforcing the no fly zone flew overhead all day long. When we eventually went back to school we started to learn about all the family members classmates had lost.”

Spencer Green, Class of 2012

“I went to school about 45 minutes from Manhattan in New Jersey, and I was in kindergarten at the time. I remember my school getting evacuated and my mom coming to pick me up with me having no idea what was going on.”

Kyle Shortman

“I was working in Manhattan that day and I was excited because I woke up to an amazing blue sky. I woke up to the kind of sky you look for when you want to take landscape photos. I went to work and then out to my first appointment that day. I remember looking up through the stairwell coming to the street from the R train at 39th street and thinking, what a beautiful day to take pictures. I got to the top of the stairs and saw a guy on the sidewalk stopped dead in his tracks staring south with his mouth wide open. I looked south and saw the huge gaping hole in the top of tower 1. I thought about what could have happened to make that huge hole. I went to my first appointment at Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and asked if they had any news. We turned on the television just in time to see the second plane hit and we all knew it was no accident. I felt fear for a second and then rage and then the world that I knew that morning was gone. I walked back to the office and watched the smoldering hole where I had worked so recently with clients and co-workers, that is when I decided that I would take no pictures that day. I went to the office and checked in. Everyone was accounted for from our office but there was no plan for anything like this. There is more to this story and to this day, but I want to offer you something other than the loss we suffered that day. I went home and thought about all the shots I had taken of the World Trade Center over the time I spent in New York. I made a photo album that I still go back to. I hope this offers comfort to some and some sort of understanding to others.”

 Nathan Wahl

Wahl’s full album can be seen here, with many of the photos scattered through this article.

 

“I was at work at a mental health center in Oak Ridge. At first we were listening to the radio, then went to a tv to watch. I saw the second plane hit. It seemed so surreal and took several minutes to realize we were under attack. I remember vividly walking outside to a beautiful, sunny fall day. There were people playing tennis at the courts across the street and all I could think was thank God they don’t know…yet. I called my mother and told her to turn on her tv. Later she would say that now I know how it felt for her to hear about Pearl Harbor. It eventually dawned on me that I’m in a city that helped build the first nuclear bomb and that we might be next, as we were on “the list” of potential terrorist attacks. I went to get my daughter (who graduates from MTSU in December) from kindergarten so if anything did happen, we would be together. Oak Ridge High School, where I work now, has a piece of beam from the mangled second tower under the flagpole. Every year we memorialize the event and the lives lost, and thank our emergency responders for their service to our city. Never forget.”

Helen Rush Jenkins

“I remember this as if it were yesterday. I was at home getting ready for a meeting I was running late for. I saw the plane crash into the side of the Twin towers. I was in shock and disbelieve that this happened–that someone could actually do something like this. I also remember the Pentagon was also hit just minutes after. I really thought the world was coming to an end. New York was on high alert and people were dead. One man fell from a building. It was the worst day in history ever.”

Melissa Hope Parks, Class of 1995

“I was in my Chicago apartment getting ready to catch the bus for work when I saw footage on the Today Show of the plane hitting the first tower. Everyone was confused wondering if it was an accident, then the second plane hit just before I left my apartment. Shortly after getting on the bus, everyone’s phone started to ring with friends/family calling about a plane hitting the Pentagon. Once I got to work, everyone was trying to check the internet, but it was so slow due the volume of people trying to use it. I informed my coworkers about the Pentagon being hit since they hadn’t heard yet. Most of the high-rise buildings, including the one I worked in on the 36th floor (overlooking Lake Michigan and Grant Park), were evacuated. They started with the lower floors in my building, so we had to wait a while. My husband, who was actually in New York for a convention in Times Square, was able to get through to my cell phone to tell me he was ok; things were crazy and he was renting a car to drive out of there. He was lucky that he did it early, because so many people got stranded there with no flights out, no rental cars available, etc. I spent all day in my apartment watching the news and waiting for any updates from my husband. It is certainly a day clearly etched in my memory like it was yesterday.”

Maria Fua Guess, Class of 1994

“I was at work at MTSU (where I still work) sitting at my desk. We heard something was happening and because the 24/7 internet news cycle wasn’t quite there yet and it was before Facebook–we were scrambling to find a tv.”

 Michelle Blevins Stepp

“I was living in Lone Pine Calif; a very small town in the Eastern Sierra mountains. I was home with my newborn son and 2 year-old. I was not watching the news as we had cartoons on. I had no idea anything had happened for many hours. It wasn’t until I tried calling a friend and she was home from work as her office closed for the day. She explained what had happened in New York. I was then glued to the TV for the remainder of the days to follow.”

Jennifer Brown Hyde

“I was in Peck Hall, Public Administration class. Dr. Vile, who was the head of the Political Science Department then, came in and told the professor (can’t remember his name) when the first plane hit. Came in again when the second plane hit. Professor kept teaching, wouldn’t let us leave class. I’m from New York, I was very upset he wouldn’t let class out. Dr. Vile put a tv in the doorway of the Political Science office so everyone could watch. We were all in disbelief. The hallway was eerily quiet. My uncle is a firefighter in Long Island and was a first responder. My father’s goddaughter was a flight attendant on one of the planes. She managed to call her parents and tell them what was going on and say goodbye.”

Kris Phillips

“I was pulling into the east lot of the MTSU library. They said a plane had hit one of the towers. At this time, it wasn’t unusual for a small plane to do that. I went into work. Then the second plane hit, since internet connectivity was very slow, the Library Admin opened up our conference room to allow us to watch it unfold. I had a second grader and I chose to let him finish out the day at school. I couldn’t let the enemy steal my joy! That evening my son had football practice. It was eerie… no white noise from planes. Things changed. Arnold AFB put up barriers at all gates. Eventually more permanent barriers were installed and the housing area got a gate shack.”

Toni Butler Click

“I was four years old and at animal kingdom in Disney world. They evacuated the whole park. We didn’t know what happened until we got back to the hotel and saw the news. I was too young to fully understand what had happened.”

Maddie Grooms

“I was at work. When we heard about the first plane hitting the tower, we were all thinking…it’s just an accident involving a private plane. Then the news came about a second plane hitting the other tower. We all huddled around the one TV we had in the office watching in horror and shock. Then more news came about the Pentagon then the plane crashing in Pennsylvania. I wanted to leave and get my son (now a student at MTSU). Once we got home, I was watching the news while sitting on the couch crying. (My son) came up to me and asked why I was crying…I just told, my then two  year-old, that some bad people did really bad things and a lot of people got hurt. Last August, my husband and I took my son and my step-daughter to New York City. One of the most precious honors of my life was visiting the 9/11 museum to pay respects to all of the victims and their families. I cried the whole tour. The next generations need to understand the significance of that day and how it changed our life as Americans. I wished they could see America the way we did in the days that followed. The patriotism, communities coming together in support of each other, the blood drives, professional sports teams cancelling games then honoring our first responders and military when they played again. As tragic as it was, this country was united!”

Candace N. Anthony Townsend

“9/11/2001. Beautiful morning. My family and I lived in East Tennessee. My daughter (a 2018 MTSU grad) was a kindergarten student and I had gone back to college at Walter’s State Community College in Sevierville. For some reason I didn’t have my radio on as I went to school that morning. Got to class and no one was in the room at first, then several came in frantic and an announcement came over the speakers that the school was closing down because of the attacks on New York City. Telling us to all go home. Professor came in describing what was happening. Another student came in in tears cause her cousin worked in one of the twin towers and no one could get in touch with her. So after shock we all left the school. In tears I rush home to find my parents and my husband at home with the news on. We jumped on our car to go pick up our daughter out of school as it was letting out early. All the parents standing outside their vehicles hugging and crying, discussing what just happened. What horror. I wish kids who don’t remember this would assemble and watch news clips for hours to grasp just a tiny bit of the horror of that day. To understand those who died as victims and as heroes in the first responders. Also I would love for them to see the outpouring of love and patriotism that also came forth. It was a different nation. Pride and love for our flag, for the meaning of freedom, honoring first responders and our military. Who would ever think that in 18 years we would become a nation who forgot.”

Lisa Sluss Burke

“I was in 6th grade in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. My parents dropped me off at my grandparent’s house every morning and they fed me breakfast and took me to school. I was in the kitchen watching Sponge Bob Square Pants when my grandfather yelled for me to come into the den. We watched the news in awe and he looked at me and said “You are watching history happen.” He knew that I wanted to be a teacher and his next words were “You will teach your kids about this one day.” Immediately after we watched the second plane hit, live. I ran to him and he hugged me for I do not know how long. It was time to go to school and PawPaw had two trucks, an everyday truck and a church truck. Well, the everyday truck was an old farm truck with no radio and he only drove the nice truck to church or if there was bad weather. I will never forget him pulling out the nice truck that morning so that we could listen to the radio on my way to school. He got out of the truck when he dropped me off and gave me the biggest and warmest hug I ever received. My grandfather was a stern godly man, a deacon in the missionary Baptist church and he never showed too much affection. I knew he loved me more than anything but that was one of the few times he ever said the words “I love you,” to me. I walked into Goodlettsville Middle School and was met at my classroom door by my teacher Mrs. Bunyi. She gave us all hugs as we entered and we watched the tv for the rest of that day. That day I changed. I no longer watched Sponge Bob in the mornings, I watched the news or the history channel with my grandfather. It was the first day that I truly felt a part of something bigger than my little family and friends. I was an American that wanted to help our country be the best that we could be. Now, every day my own students leave my classroom as I hug them, tell them I love them, and remind them to make me proud. ”

Courtney LeAnn Pratt, Class of 2012

“I was in 10th grade English Lit. The neighboring English teacher ran into our class crying and turned the television on. We watched the 2nd plane strike and the towers fall. We stayed in that class until our parents came.”

Becca Smith

“I was home sick from work that day and my husband called me and said turn on the TV. I did, and that picture will forever stay in my mind…all of our lives changed that day.”

Gayle Martin Bentley, Class of 1978

“I was at work when an employee, who tended to be dramatic, called me. He was screaming, “We’re under attack! We’re under attack! They’re bombing New York City!” Then he hung up the phone. I just sat at my desk unsure of what to do. I couldn’t process what he was saying. I turned on the radio to find out what was going on. Everyone started to gather in my office. Someone had a small black and white tv. The screen was like 4×4 and it ran on batteries. I don’t know if it was for emergencies or what. It was so little, but we were all gathered around it watching the horror unfold. No one worked. We just sat in stunned silence. Eventually, I left and picked up my children. They were eleven and one at the time and I had this overwhelming urge to gather them up, take them home and keep them close. My husband came home, too. Our oldest had lots of questions that we answered as best we could, but it was difficult because we didn’t understand ourselves. The television networks covered it 24/7 for days on end. The constant information dump became overwhelming with one horribly sad story after another and at the same time life continued. The mass grief evolved into national pride and symbols of patriotism grew overnight. There were flags everywhere. Almost every car had an American flag. People wore them on their clothes. It was almost as though people didn’t really know how to process their emotions, so they came out in massive displays of patriotism.”

Emily Cole Pegg, Class of 1989

“I was freshman, miles away from home. I had a 7 a.m. class and we had just finished. My class was in the Alumni gym. Between there and my dorm at Corlew, the first plane had crashed. I remember walking into the lobby of Corlew with people gathered around the TV. There was fear. There was uncertainty. It changed our life. I woke up my roommate and turned the TV on in our room and we saw the second plane make impact. It is something I’ll never forget. It impacted my entire freshman year.”

Shelby Craig

“I was a student at MTSU on 9/11. I was in Business Policy class in the Business/Aerospace building on campus when I heard about it. I was a senior at the time. My friend got a message on his business pager and told me about it…I went home right after that class and skipped the rest of my classes that day. I just watched all the coverage on my non-HDTV at my parents house and didn’t move off the couch for like 8 hours that day. I think we were all just in shock that day. I even remember everyone scrambling for gas that next day because there was a real fear of a bad shortage and all US airports being shutdown for like a week or so. I will never forget.”

John Griffin

“In the KUC, as a sophomore. Saw a bunch of folks gathered around the big tube TV in a sitting area, watched the replay of the first tower falling. Went to class in the animation “fishbowl” where we voted to go ahead and take the scheduled test. Professor turned the projector in the room on to CNN for us while we took it. Looked up between classes to see the 2nd tower fall. Rest of classes cancelled, spent the rest of my day in the dorm watching the TV (actually fell asleep with it on, terrified of what the next attack might be).”

Lacey Ballard

“I was a student at MTSU ON 9/11. I heard the news before heading to school. I had 2 classes that day. Theater was first. My teacher tried to have business as usual but she was struggling. She had friends in New York. The class next to ours had the TV on so we cut short and moved over with them to watch the news. Then I went to accounting. Dr Farmer said we couldn’t cancel class or watch TV because we had a test to study for. I can’t imagine anyone actually thinking about accounting but we tried.”

Cynthia Waldron Harmon

“I had just dropped my youngest son off at his grandparents, oldest was at school. When I walked in parents house the first tower was hit and we were glued to the TV and then on air the second one hit. I remember thinking “What’s happening?” And I felt the overpowering need to have my kids at my house immediately. I grabbed my son and went directly to my daughters school and picked her up. Went home and was glued to the TV for days watching all the coverage. It is still so surreal. Like it was a movie almost. Like it wasn’t real. Honestly, I felt like a sitting duck just waiting on the end. So crazy!”

Susan Hill Rollyson

“I was a freshman living in Scarlett Commons, my first few weeks away from home as an ‘adult’. That day changed a lot of things about what I thought I knew. The first attack occurred when I was walking to my Psychology test; I heard people talking about a plane hijacking, but at the time they thought it was isolated. By the time I left the hall, campus was eerily quiet. I got back to my apartment and my roommates were all standing around the TV in disbelief at what was happening. The rest of my classes ended up being cancelled and the rest of the day was spent waiting on word of family that had been in New York.”

Lea Wilson Alley

“Alum that transferred into MTSU my junior year- I was in college in Tampa my sophomore year. I was sick that morning and skipped my first class. I had the news on and saw the news. We were scared in Tampa because the president was in Florida and our college was very close to the air force base. Everyone was on edge wondering if that base would get hit. Classes were cancelled that day and we all just sat around watching tv.”

Melissa Moore Singley

“I was a Junior at MTSU and lived off campus. One of my roommates had her tv on and I was getting ready for class in the bathroom when she was like, “Oh my god, you have to come see this,” soon after the first tower was hit. We watched for a while but didn’t know what else to do besides go to class. It was weird on campus, empty but full of quiet, nervous energy. I think I just went to part of my first class before it was dismissed, so I watched the giant TVs in the KUC with others before returning home and watching news coverage with my roommates and friends, probably into the next day.”

Jennifer Brown Reager

“I lived in Lyon Hall at the time, but I was house-sitting in Smyrna for my parents, who were out of town. I had the news on while I was getting ready to leave for class and clearly remember watching the second plane hit. I sat in complete disbelief and ended up missing all my classes that day just being glued to the news or the phone, keeping in touch with my parents, who were panicked about getting home. We cried on the phone together when the first tower fell…followed shortly by the second. My parents had to rent a car to drive home because of airports being shut down.”

Jess Cantrell

“We had just moved to Australia (both are alumni) and our family called us from Franklin to say that America was under attack. We turned on the TV and sat in horror. I have dear friends in New York and my first fear was for them. We felt so far away and helpless and scared for our family. I had visited the twin towers with my friend and remember the people in the diner upstairs. My heart broke and the fear began but I now realize that we can’t let fear win. Terrorism is just a word. Our humanity and love for each other must win always.”

Rhondda Scott

“I had graduated and was just getting the day started at work. There was a group of us that had heard a plane had crashed into the tower. I pictured a small private plane and then we saw the tragic events unfold.”

Angela Farmer

“I was a student at MTSU and working part time. I remember watching the news cast in disbelief. When the first tower fell it was devastating. I will never forget where I was and how small I felt.”

Danielle Mark Worell

“Married for just less than one year, I was a newlywed. I was working full time while my husband was working full time third shift. I was driving to work over on Heritage Park Drive when I heard the report on the radio about the first plane. At the time, I thought it was a mere accident. However, when the second report came over the radio, I knew it was no accident. I got to work, rushed into our conference room and turned on the TV to see it all over the news. My coworkers arrived around the same time and we stayed glued to the TV all day. Nobody got any work done. My husband was a pilot, although not flying for anyone at the time. I will never forget the empty skies for those few days afterward! He was trying to get a job as a charter pilot at the time, but that didn’t work out for him due to the airline layoffs that happened soon afterward.”

Tami Worley Holloman, Class of 2000

“I was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington and there was a lot of uncertainty about what was going to happen next. Force protection across post jumped to levels none of us had ever seen. Vehicles with crew served weapons and extra soldiers in full kit at all the gates and key locations across post. Most units started to put a hold on leaves (time off) until things clarified over the next several days.”

 Rich Pope, Class of 1993 and a Blue Raider Battalion alumni

“I was still living at home with my parents. I worked in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and I had worked a night shift the day before. I was still asleep when my mom burst into my room yelling something about an attack. I turned on the news and saw the first tower on fire. I then saw the second plane hit. My eyes were glued to the tv for the most part of the day. At the time, I was dating someone that was attending Berea college. We had cell phones, but it was nothing like today. I had maybe 250 mins to use. I tried reaching my boyfriend via landline. He was in his common area watching tv with everyone else. The next day, I was scheduled to work. Working in a tourist destination after something like that is quite eerie. While people are visiting, it was a lot quieter than usual. Not many people came by that day. No planes flew and I’m sure many were trying to figure out what to do. There is a bridge you drive under on the way into town. Someone hung an American flag on it for those driving in to see. I remember the newspaper I got the next day. It showed the devastating pictures, including one of a man. He was in his business suit, and he was falling head-first to the choice he thought was best. Jump or die in this building. That image is so haunting.”

Maggie Morgan Bacon, Class of 2001

“I was late to class (I overslept one class), and my roommate yelled through my bedroom door something about a plane hitting a tower in New York. I remember waking up and thinking that is a strange thing to say, but I got ready and left for campus. When I arrived to campus (as I shared a condo on Northfield), I remember there wasn’t a lot of cars in the parking area. I quickly walked towards class and heard other students talk about this “plane” and something else about class being cancelled. Sure enough, when I got to the science building, there was a posted sign that read, “All classes cancelled today. Please return home.” I thought that was very strange. I walked over to Greek Row (as I myself am a Σχ), and walked in the Common Room. About thirty brothers were speechless, just watching the TV. The first video (of the first plane hit) was a loop, and the newscasters were talking about possible terrorism. Then, as we watched the tower on fire, we saw (from the side), another plane hit. Then we learned about the third and fourth planes… You could have heard a pin drop. We were all in disbelief. I don’t think our Common Room was ever been as quiet as on that day. We didn’t know what to do. We just watched in silence and shock. I don’t remember leaving the house, but when I got home, my roommates were in the living room watching the same thing. We must have sat there for hours, shaking our heads and feeling powerless. Pretty much all businesses closed up, and there was nothing to take your mind off of what had just happened. As a former Navy Nuc, I wanted so badly to find these people responsible. In fact, I went back up MEPS Nashville to re-join as an officer, but I decided against it.”

 Keith Brown

“It was my junior year at MTSU in 9/11. I was a lifeguard at the Rutherford County YMCA and worked the early morning shift. That morning, one of my coworkers came running into the pool area saying, “The Pentagon’s been bombed! The Pentagon’s been bombed!” I couldn’t wrap my mind around what he was saying, and he said, “You’ve got to see what’s happened. This is bad.” I waited for my only lap swimmer to leave and I ran into the cardio room to watch all that had happened. It was so quiet, in this large, open room, with treadmills, and workout machines that’s usually busy and noisy. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, the towers on fire and falling to the ground. As soon as my shift was over, I called my mom and just cried. She asked if I was going to come home (in Knoxville) and I just didn’t know what to say. It felt like it took an eternity to get to my Murfreesboro home, across the street from campus. I was scared for my life, a fear that I had never felt before. I was truly afraid that I could die. Who would be next? I couldn’t move from my living room, watching every detail of the day in disbelief. My brother was a fireman for the City of Knoxville at the time, and still is, and as I watched all the footage of the New York fire fighters around the World Trade Center, my heart was beyond broken. I cried for a long time that night at the loss of life, the loss that I was no longer “safe”. I was also a majorette for the Band of Blue at that time. We, the majorettes, decided to wear red, white, and blue ribbons on our uniforms for the next home football game. Those memories, those feelings of sadness and loss, I will never forget that. I will never forget 9/11.”

Mindy Faddis Corum, Class of 2003

Photo courtesy of Nathan Wahl

“I was sitting in front of the TV while my mom was getting me ready for daycare. When the news came on with a recording of the first plane hitting the tower, my mom screamed. I was only four, but I understood the terroristic attack that was unfolding at that very moment. She frantically grabbed the phone, trying to dial my family members who resided in the city and worked in the south tower…too many lives were lost that day, and it hurts to visit my aunts grave on the anniversary of this tragedy.”

Anonymous

“I’m an alum, had graduated in December 2000, and had finally found a job in my field just a couple of months prior. I was getting ready for work and had the TV on when the first plane hit. I was already running late and watched a couple of minutes. Left and had to pick up breakfast due to running late. I was in line to get it when the second plane hit. I still remember my exact breakfast that day and haven’t been able to eat it since.”

Shanna Cobble

“I was working in the schools the day of 9/11. My husband just started a new job in Lexington, Kentucky on that day and I was anxiously waiting to hear from him that evening to see how it went. You see, his former company had been bought by another and he had the choice to move to New York City and work in the Twin Towers or find a job elsewhere. We aren’t New Yorkers, so he found another job. Now, 9/11 was before people widely had cell phones. But we got him one for his new job. So when he called the school I worked at and said he had to speak to me, I knew it was an emergency. He called to tell me that he was hiding in the stairwell of his new employers because a plane had hit the tower and another had gone missing over Lexington, Kentucky. It ended up being the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. I had a TV on a cart in my office, so I turned on the tv to see what was happening. I turned on in time to watch the 2nd tower be hit. It was horrifying. I ran to the office to tell the principal and burst into a meeting he was having. After turning on the TV in his office, he told me to cancel my classes and keep an eye on things and report back to him. We had no idea if Nashville was next. Who was to say?

My next thoughts turned to my parents. They lived in Northern Virgina and my mom worked for a shipbuilding company across the street from the Pentagon. She was frequently over there for meetings. To watch the Pentagon be hit was scary. Cell towers were overloaded and no one could reach my mom for a couple of hours. She was able to finally get a phone call out to my dad, who then called me. He jumped in his SUV and drove to get her. (She had van pooled to work). It took them several hours for him to get to her and get home. They didn’t see their neighbors for two days, never knowing if they were dead or alive. The section of the Pentagon that was hit was my dad’s old office when he was active duty.

In the end my husband lost several friends and former co-workers in the towers. We were grateful we chose the path that led us to Kentucky instead. I’m thankful my mom was in her office when the Pentagon hit.

I watch the documentaries each year, learning new facts every time. I’ve lost a friend who was a worker in the aftermath to suicide because she couldn’t handle the memories of the sights and sounds of what she saw that day and for months after.

We need to remember.”

Dena Ellis O’Neal

“I was a senior at Coffee County Central High School in Manchester, TN. I was walking into my Economics class. He always had the TV on to the news, being we discussed it on a daily basis. I remember walking in and my eyes going to the TV. I don’t remember walking to my desk, but I did. We just all watched it transfixed. You could have heard a pin drop. Not too much longer the bell rang and I headed to my English class. The tv was on there too. We just all watched. Now what stood out was they had landed Air Force One at the Air Force Base my dad was stationed at and the base I grew up on for 7 years. At that moment it got a little more real. I recognized the room President Bush did his press conference in as the same room my dad’s retirement ceremony was in and then I remember my heart dropping and wondering if my dad could be called back to service because I knew this wasn’t going to end well. I don’t remember much more of the day. I do remember talking to my dad soon after I got home, for him to assure me that he had been out of the military too long for them to call him back.”

Allyson Driver, Class of 2006

“I was sitting in my living room at home. I was young, but I could tell– from the frantic pacing of my mother, the stunned voices of the journalists on TV– that history was unfolding in front of me in the worst ways. You ever get that feeling that a single moment in time has altered everything around you? A single, incomprehensible action that shifts the course of your soul slightly, entangling those red strings of fate into an entirely new pattern? That was this day. The moment that second plane hit, my childhood ended. That event ushered in years of war straight into my home- starting from the evening of 9/11, when my father came home and immediately started packing his rucksack, to every moment after that. Three deployments, countless goodbyes, unspeakable tears and nightmares, and the constant company of death over your shoulder. You never knew when that one letter would be your last. Or if that dead soldier- casually and impartially mentioned on the news- was the last you’d ever hear of your loved one.

And the war never stopped there. PTSD is its own form of terrorism, one that roosts in the hearts and homes of everyone who stood up against it. More tears, more nightmares, and the constant cold touch of death.

It numbs you after a while.

But it also burnishes you. If it weren’t for 9/11, I would not be the person I am today. Whether for better or for worse, I would not be me, I would not be a journalist, I would not be so passionate about justice and truth and fighting for those who need it most. The horrors of that day, and every day that has followed, has made me a stronger me.

Now I sit here and carefully bandage my owns wounds from 9/11 and work my way through another deployment- this time, my twin, fighting my father’s war. But I find comfort in the fact that there are others like me. Everyone with their own story and beginning.

I hope one day we will all be able to look back at that day with the comfort that we are stronger because of it. Until then, and even after, may we never forget what that day took from us, and may we never forget those who died to give us today. “

Angele Latham

 

 

To contact Editor-in-Chief Angele Latham, email editor@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Kathie Colgrove
    September 13, 2019
    Reply

    I was a senior at MTSU in 2001. I heard about the attacks on my car radio on my way to class. It reminded me of “War of the Worlds” the classic radio broadcast. It was surreal. When I arrived on campus, students were in shock. I was an older student and it reminded of me of when my classmates at Oral Roberts University at the time had just learned of the Shuttle Disaster. That announcement was made during chapel services.

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