Since my fellow creative and online copywriters at DDA, Laura and Elise, got the ball rolling with their September 11 stories, I figured I would join them. Seven years later (I can’t believe it’s been that long), it’s a day that will forever be etched into my memory.
Less than two weeks earlier, my parents had dropped me off on a busy street in downtown Boston for my freshman year of college. I lived on the ninth floor of the right-hand tower of an enormous 18-story dormitory in the center of the Boston University campus with 1,800 fellow students (this, and the photo, will become important later). The second-largest non-military dorm in the nation:
September 11 was the second day of our first full week of classes, and after a week of orientation activities, I was finally getting used to life on campus. That morning, I had a 9:30 class with the other 300-or-so communications majors. The lecture hall was across the street from my dorm, so I had planned to roll out of bed about 9 a.m. But I was awakened earlier by my roomate (also named Steve — talk about a confusing year), who was trying to juggle the TV antenna to get a clear signal (our lovely college president thought cable TV would inhibit our studies, so none was offered).
Once I was half-awake, I started asking questions. What happened? What are we watching? At that point, only one tower was on fire, and there were still thoughts that this was an accident. With that, I stepped across the hall to see if the neighbors had a better signal. While I was in the hallway, out of sight of a TV, I heard 40 people on the floor let out a collective scream. The second tower had just been hit. No longer did we think this was an accident.
A few floormates were also communications majors, and had the same 9:30 class. At this point, it was time to leave for class, but no one wanted to. First of all, we hated the professor (the dean of the college), and we assumed no one would be in class anyway. Reluctantly, we all went to class, assuming he would tell us to leave, or at least put the coverage on the screen for us to watch together. Aside from it being a traumatic and life-changing event, this was a class that included journalism and television majors, so the coverage of the event was also something our professor should have been interested in.
Nope. We had our regularly scheduled class. Many students never showed, and some got up and left in the middle of the class, clutching cell phones. You see, despite being in Boston, there are more students at BU from New York than anywhere else. After just two weeks, I knew at least 10 people — including my roommate — who were from New York City or had relatives who worked there. In the days that followed, we learned that one of my best friends had lost a close family friend — the father of her best friend — in the World Trade Center.
As we left class, we assumed that all classes would be canceled for the day. Especially considering much of Boston was being locked down after learning that two of the planes all left from Boston’s Logan Airport. But our president (the same one who made the cable rule) earned the dubious distinction of running the only one of Boston’s countless colleges to NOT cancel classes that day. Not that many people attended. In fact, most professors canceled class on their own.
Now on to the importance of my VERY tall dorm building. When my mom first learned that the flights had left from Boston, and saw SWAT teams on television surrounding a hotel just a few blocks from campus where they thought the hijackers had spent the night, she expressed concern that our very prominent dorm was next to be hit. I tried to calm her down, arguing that it was likely over, and that there were much more prominent and taller buildings in town for the terrorists to aim for. But, now I understand that after watching her oldest child leave home for the first time just weeks before, this was the last thing she needed.
In the days that followed, we learned how deeply 9/11 affected our campus. Memorials were set up for the numerous alumni members and family members of students who died that day, including a prominent former ice hockey player whose twin brother was an assistant coach, and a valedictorian from just two or three years prior.
Fortunately, no one I knew personally was killed or injured in the crashes that day in New York, Washington, or Western Pennsylvania. But seven years later, it is a day I still remember vividly (hence the VERY long, descriptive blog post). And it is a day I’ll never forget.