Syracuse reflects a decade after 9/11

Students, alumni and citizens give an oral history of their experience with 9/11, and how they have risen above fear.

This Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Across the country, Americans will honor the date with memorial services, speeches, illuminated candles, and dozens upon dozens of magazine cover tributes.

The terrorist attacks 10 years ago cost Americans two wars, billions of dollars in defense spending, two presidencies marred by foreign policy and above all, challenged American citizens to live in fear for their lives.

Photo: William Philbin

About this video

Produced by Josh Frackleton and Eric Vilas-Boas

Special Thanks:
Production Assistants: Sara Tracey, Jill Feigelman, Monica Bermudez, Roxanne Broda-Blake, and Tammy Chan
Time-Lapse Videographer: William Philbin and Pilotfish Productions.

In Syracuse, N.Y., however, students and citizens alike made it clear that they are no longer shaken, and that 10 years might actually be long enough to have shifted their thoughts from fear to remembrance.

September 11, 2001

School had been going for a week or two. I was a freshman, just got there. I was going to math class at Carnegie Hall early in the morning…probably around 9 a.m. or so. I went to class, and I hadn’t heard anything. A couple kids came into class a little bit late and said they were watching TV and that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.
Josh Morrissey ’05, Syracuse University
New York, N.Y.

I was in social studies class sitting with my best friend Andrea and our professor came in, and he just got very quiet. He stopped lecturing and he said he knew that we were young, but he was going to treat us as adults. He thought that we should know what happened. He said, “There’s been a terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. A plane just went into the Twin Towers.” I burst out laughing with my friend because we thought he was joking.
Patricia Neagu ’12, biology/pre-veterinary student, Syracuse University
Queens, N.Y.

When an event like that happens, there’s communicative chaos. It’s extremely difficult to have confidence in anything one hears in a news report. Skepticism is the rational attitude to have….And there are reports, retractions, revisions. This is to be expected.
Samuel Gorovitz, Professor of Philosophy, Syracuse University
Jamesville, N.Y.

I was in a classroom, in the fourth grade…I could specifically hear sirens, going down FDR Drive, which is the highway on the East River of New York City. Just sirens going and going and going. Then the phone starts ringing in the classroom.
Jose Moreno ’14, broadcast journalism student, Syracuse University
Manhattan, N.Y.

I could remember going outside and just being excited to leave class. At the time I was eleven years-old. I didn’t understand the severity of the situation. All I thought in my mind was, “I get to leave school.”

Someone raised their hand to the teacher, and was like, “Hey, did you hear about this? A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” The teacher said it was probably nothing…He was like, “No, no, you can’t go.” So we waited for him to turn around and about four or five of us left, walked out. We had to figure out what was going on.

We knew in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that many people at Syracuse would have particular reason for connecting with this type of event and we didn’t know who they were or what those connections would be.

I ran down to Schine. By the time I got there, the second tower had fallen. People were all crowded around the TV in the lobby area of Schine. Everyone was crying, everyone was concerned, trying to call their families in New York. It was a really shocked scene right in Schine of people watching it live happening.

I was worried sick, because my mom works in Midtown, even though that was nowhere near the attack. But, you know, we’ve been to the Towers…What if she just went there—I don’t know—to stroll around? What if she had been in the area? You couldn’t get in contact with anyone. It was horrible.

We spent a lot of time trying to get clear about such basic things as who was or who wasn’t in the building with Syracuse connections, who was and who wasn’t at risk in various ways—just trying to get a sense of the facts.

My mom made it home that night at around maybe 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. She had to walk across the 59th Street Bridge, because all the bridges were closed. They were afraid that there was going to be a terrorist attack on the bridges.

For three, five days, maybe a week or two, it was just images on the news: the Towers crashing, and then they started showing people jumping out of windows, and all the survivor stories if there were any, and then you had the specials on CNN or whatever news channel about the “Children of 9/11.”

New York City was pretty much on its knees for about a week or two and then everybody just started to come together, rebuild, start over.

Today, 10 Years Later

Everyone says, “You’re from New York, you’ve got this attitude or this and that, whatever, you don’t take s---from anyone.” But, it was a lot more subdued. People were so unsure of themselves. They were scared. You couldn’t go on the subways or you tried to stay away from the subway systems as much as possible because you didn’t know what was going to happen.

What’s weird about 9/11 is that, as a big a city as New York City is, it brought everyone together as a community…Random strangers came up to each other, talking to each other, just making sure everyone was OK.

The effects of events like this are often delayed. A student may be, or a faculty member may seem to be just fine several weeks or a month later, and six months later, may be confronting all kinds of disruptive delayed effects: nightmares, problems of attention, distraction, feelings of anxiety.

At the time I was pretty young. I didn’t understand what a terrorist was, didn’t understand what this all meant.

I wanted to come over, take a picture of the steel, take a picture of the memorial, it’s a great thing, we should never forget about this.
William Smith, interviewed at New York State Fair
Sound Beach, N.Y.

I owe it to the victims. I owe it to the country, being an American. This is something that we all went through together.
Lori Krone, taxi driver, interviewed at New York State Fair
Geneva, N.Y

I went to the World Trade Center maybe ten times in my whole life. To this day, when you cut through the city, you look over, you don’t see it there no more. It’s part of my life, it’s part of everyone’s life.
Richard Smith, interviewed at New York State Fair
Centereach, N.Y.

We need to remember that this was not just an American tragedy. The people who died in the World Trade Center were from all countries, all nationalities, all walks of life, every religion, every faith. Remember that, and honor everyone, as one people, one world.
Gary Beirne, interviewed at New York State Fair
Cicero, N.Y.

The Future and Beyond

I think as a whole country we’re more aware of ourselves. We’re more aware of our surroundings. We’re not so blasé about what other people are doing. This basically made us very aware of what happened to us, what could happen again, it could happen at any time, not just America, but any other country.

It’s hard not to walk around the city or go to the airport and have preconceived notions of what might happen, who’s going to do what, who’s looking suspicious or not. Walking around the city it’s a bit more calm—people just walk around, normally. But in certain situations whether it be a fire or some sort of thing going on in the city, you can’t stop and not think, “Is this a terrorist attack?”…People are a bit more cautious and sensitive about these situations, and people are quick to judge.

Concordance of date can be very powerful. There were people who had weddings scheduled for September 11. Do they cancel the wedding? Do they proceed? What does it do to their anniversary going forward into the future?

As every anniversary of 9/11 passes by, I learn a little bit more and I get a little bit more upset at what happened, how this could have been prevented one way or another, the thousands of lives that were lost. It’s unnecessary.

The worst thing we could do is respond in a stereotypical way that blames any category of people for any actions done by people who are not representative of the mainstream of that category…We don’t like it when it’s done to us or about us and we certainly don’t want it to be done by us.


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