Fifteen years ago today, a group of terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and crashed two of them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, another into the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., and the last into a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
With nearly 3,000 deaths and more than 6,000 injuries, they were the deadliest foreign attacks ever to occur on U.S. soil.
These four School of Information Studies (iSchool) faculty members were in Syracuse on that day in 2001, and recall their experiences on campus following the news of the attacks.
Executive professor Scott Bernard was on campus to teach a class with adjunct professor Mark Pollitt, who was serving as an FBI agent at the time. The class was geared toward distance graduate students, many of whom were in Syracuse that week from across the U.S., taking it as part of a required campus residency.
“I remember that we cancelled the class at about 11:00 AM and helped to organize car pools for the students – we got everyone home safely that way, some going to Texas and all the way to the West coast. The students all bonded together and helped each other. I gave Mark a ride back to Washington, D.C., as he had flown up to help me teach the class, and all the airlines were grounded. He then worked for several weeks straight due to the attack. We both lost friends at the Pentagon.”
Associate Professor of Practice Jill Hurst-Wahl was on campus to teach an undergraduate class in Sims Hall that day.
“After giving them information on how to find information on what was going on, I let them go. I remember one student who was trying to contact her mother, because her mother’s subway commute went under the World Trade Center. The next night in my graduate class, one student told that his car had been towed from whatever campus parking lot he had parked in on Sept. 11 to make an additional landing pad for the nearby hospitals. Sadly, no one was airlifted from NYC to Syracuse. I was living without a TV and it wasn’t until I got to campus – and saw a TV – that I understood how the Towers had fallen. It was inconceivable to me without actually seeing it.”
Associate Professor Michelle Kaarst-Brown had just joined the iSchool as a faculty member in August of 2001, and was on her way onto campus for a meeting with then dean Ray Von Dran when she stopped at a nearby café for a quick breakfast.
“I walked in and could hear a man talking on the restaurant phone. He had just flown in from New York City on the last flight that made it out that morning, and he was trying to get back. His offices and colleagues were in the south tower of the World Trade Center, and he couldn’t reach anyone. He was desperately trying to find a one way or even a two-way car rental to drive back to the city, but was not having any luck. I went up to him, introduced myself and gave him my new Syracuse University card, and told him that if he could not get a rental, I would drive him as close in to NYC as I could get him. I cautioned that from what I’d heard on the news, I might not be able to get him into the city itself as bridges and tunnels were closed. He was pretty emotional but thanked me and said he would take up my offer if he could not get a car, but would keep trying to find a one-way rental. Then I called in to tell my new dean I might not make it in, only to find that the meeting had been cancelled. I remember eating slowly and nursing a couple of coffees. I was ready to go when the man came over and thanked me profusely, but told me he had finally found a one-way car rental. I admit to a feeling of relief that I was not going to be driving into the disaster, but I would have if he’d needed it.
I designed and teach our Enterprise Risk Management courses, and one of the exercises that I developed and used for over a decade was called ‘Where are they now?’ My students and I studied surviving firms from the Twin Towers and the events of those two days, their risk plans and recovery. Lots of great lessons to be learned, but it also kept the events of that day top of mind.”
Professor of Entrepreneurship Bruce Kingma was associate dean of the iSchool on the day of the 9/11 attacks. He recalls hearing about the attacks while in a meeting with an industry group that the School was working on a grant with.
“We were interrupted in the middle of the meeting to tell us the news that the World Trade Center had been hit. We helped our visitors secure cars to leave Syracuse. The rest of our faculty were told to end class. The staff members in the Student Services office were great in helping our distance students here on residency get back to their homes. One of the two flights to NYC flew over West Point. My oldest was a first year cadet. My wife somehow was able to connect with him before the base went on lockdown.”