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I was in the third grade on September 11, 2001. All teachers were called to the office to watch the news and my teacher did not come back for an hour. When she did come back, she was crying and searching for her phone. Shortly after, another teacher came into the room and my teacher left. The door to the hall was open and I could see a group of teachers surrounding mine as she was desperately trying to make phone calls. Being in the third grade, we were not informed to what was going on but told to talk amongst ourselves.

After waiting for an hour and a half for our teacher, she came back into the room with a tear-stained face. The fear showed in her face and in her voice. She did not hold back the tears, and even as third graders, we all knew that something had happened.She explained to us the events that had just happened in New York; she also explained that her daughter was currently on vacation in New York. My teacher had spent the last couple hours attempting to get a hold of her daughter but had had no luck. She did not know if her daughter had been close to the tower or nowhere near it.

Many of the parents picked their kids up early, including mine. When I got home, I watched the events of 9/11 on the news. I had not fully understood the tragedies that my teacher had explained until I saw the events happen. I could not believe that something like it could happen and that I may have known someone that died. Thankfully, my teacher’s daughter was nowhere near the Twin Towers, but it still pains me to think of the many people who waited to hear that person’s voice, but they never did. The lives that were lost will never be forgotten and I will never forget the day that they lost their lives.

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I was in first period English my senior year of high school. A student had mentioned hearing something about an airplane accident in NY, but no one considered it anything besides an accident. Then our teacher took a call during class, which was unusual – it was her father, who had worked in the federal government. She was quiet, then her face turned white and she said, “What do you mean someone attacked the Pentagon?” Other details are fuzzy in my memory, but I’ll never forget that moment.

More information emerged, and I don’t recall our teachers really teaching anything that day. TVs were set up in the halls, and my friends and I went home at lunch to watch the coverage thus far. After school I went to my babysitting job – I don’t think I really knew what to say to the boys, or if they asked any questions – their parents came home pretty quickly. I remember the days and days of news coverage, all the photos and videos, that you wanted to stop watching, but you couldn’t.

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When 9/11 happened, SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence had just inaugurated the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor award. Our initial four members of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers–Bill Babcock (Theology), James Hopkins (History), Joe Kobylka (Political Science), and Ellen Pryor (Law)–had not yet met to decide on our first Academy Forum.

The terrorist attacks, unfortunately, gave us the forum topic. Less than a month after 9/11, I moderated a panel discussion featuring these four. The topic: “The Role of the University in Times of Crisis.” Held in the Hughes-Trigg Auditorium, several hundred faculty and students attended, asked questions, and offered comments.

It was a fitting topic for the inaugural Forum series: intellectually stimulating and emotionally purging.

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Living in Hawaii, sometimes you forget you are part of the United States since we’re physically not connected to North America and so far away. But nothing makes you feel a stronger sense of patriotism when 9/11 occurred. I was in the fourth grade and I can clearly remember my dad talking on the phone with my grandmother who is not an American citizen but a Japanese citizen calling him with the news about 9/11. Not only had she called everyone in my family who lived in Hawaii she had called family in California, Texas, and Massachusetts. She wanted to make sure everyone was okay. My grandmother advised everyone in my family to turn on the news. I was very sleepy at the time but Fox news blaring from the living room woke me up. I went up stairs to see my dad watching what appeared to look like the Deep Impact movie. My father never kept secrets from me and tried to explain to me what had happen. I sat there in front of the TV trying to comprehend that this was not a movie but really happening. I later went to school that day, learning some classmates had family in New York and were unsure of their family members safety. The following months after 9/11 a sense of patriotism I had never seen before in Hawaii started to emerge. Everyone in Hawaii began making efforts to send the “Aloha” spirit to the victims and their families of 9/11.

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Editorial printed in The Dallas Morning News
Nancy Cain Marcus
September 4, 2002

This time last year I had just moved to New York to serve as a United States Public Delegate to the United Nations. My first day at the US Mission to the UN would be Monday, September 10, a day devoted to orientation for delegates, reporting officers, and area advisors to the 56th Session of the General Assembly, which was to open ceremoniously the following morning at ten o’clock across the street at the United Nations Headquarters. I was looking forward to becoming acquainted with the complexities of UN proceedings and to learning my way around. But my second day on the job was September 11.
I arrived at my office at the US Mission to the UN after the first airplane crashed into the first Twin Tower, but before the second Twin Tower was hit. My taxi driver, a courteous Asian man, and I wondered together what all the paralyzing traffic, commotion, and sirens were about, and it was just as I was stepping out of the cab that we heard on the radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We both assumed it was a dreadful accident. I entered the building and hurried to my office. Within one minute—or it may have been 30 seconds—of arriving, I followed instructions given to all employees to gather on the top floor of the building. Within the few minutes while we were gathering, an experienced older ambassador speculated correctly in conversation with me about precisely who and what were behind these hideous acts. The name Osama bin Laden was maybe only slightly familiar to me then; the Taliban I knew only dimly as the group that had destroyed all the religious icons in Afghanistan; and I don’t believe I had ever heard of the Al Quaeda network. Suddenly, I noticed that the pleasant young man who the day before had politely addressed us about security procedures revealed a different character. It was both alarming and assuring to see that he was bearing weapons and that his friendly demeanor of the day before had changed into an intense steely focus and a dead-serious resolve.
Ambassador James Cunningham, an experienced career foreign service officer who was Acting Chief of Mission, soberly disclosed to the entire staff what little information he had, which was that it appeared the United States was under a major terrorist attack. I was told by another diplomat that Ambassador Cunningham had already been on the phone with both the President and the Secretary of State. The briefing was interrupted by a loud speaker giving repeated instructions to follow evacuation procedures—the steps of which had been covered in the first day of orientation. We all took the stairs down floor after floor and quickly departed the building. Once outside we could see our colleagues at UN Headquarters being evacuated at the same time.
The 36-block walk back to my apartment was eerily quiet. The uncanny silence—without the honking of horns, without the piercing sirens of one hour before—was punctuated with the sounds of F-16’s flying over Manhattan. It felt at once dangerous and strangely calm. People were pouring out of office buildings, and the sidewalks were crowded, but most people were hardly saying a word to each other. Instead, just about everyone was on a cell phone, trying to find someone who was out of reach. Few had much luck, but people just kept walking and dialing. The F-16’s continued to patrol the skies all day and all night, and an acrid burning smell wafted in and out.
The General Assembly of the United Nations, delayed by only one day, began on September 12. The tone of the diplomatic community was gravely sympathetic, and within 24 hours of the attacks in New York, the United Nations Security Council adopted the now renowned Resolution 1368, condemning in the strongest terms the terrorists attacks of the previous day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, and calling on member States to bring the perpetrators—and whoever might aid, sponsor, or harbor them—to justice. The adoption of this resolution, and the fact that the General Assembly affirmed it on September 12, were of no small significance. On September 28 came the adoption of Resolution 1373, requiring every UN member to take action against those who finance terrorist activities, a crucial component of the War on Terrorism. These resolutions had teeth in them, and the 189 member nations were largely united in these actions, making for an historic moment at the UN.
Much transpired, as history now records, in the weeks and months that followed. Looking back on that defining day of September 11, I feel fortunate to have been there in solidarity with New Yorkers, with all Americans, and with the many foreign diplomats who worriedly but earnestly wished us well. Though I cannot explain it, I can honestly say that, in spite of frequent rumors and official threats throughout the fall, I never felt a moment’s fear. It was as though a grace had come over me, and all emotions were over-ridden by deeply protective instincts and a heightened sense of duty. One year later those instincts endure.

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The horror of 9/11 brought Muslim and Christian women of deep faith to the realization that while our respective faiths taught us to love our neighbors, we did not even know each other across the faiths! Therefore, on November of 2011, five women (three Muslim and two Christian clergywomen) gathered at Kirby Parlor of Perkins School of Theology – SMU to become acquainted. We instantly realized how much we needed each other and how much we shared as women professionals, mothers, faith leaders and American citizens! Instantly, we realized the power we had to combat the growing fear and hate in Dallas by bringing women together for conversation. We had the shadows of the recent hate crime murder against a Hindu Shamrock gasoline owner in Mesquite that resulted from the horror of 9/11 in our minds as we put together these monthly meetings. Our goal was simple: to build bridges that would lead to true friendships. We did this by sharing what our faith taught us about living and being in relationship with others. In our third year of meeting, we invited Jewish women to join our dialogue group. Ten years later, we have achieved that goal and much more. Deep friendships have emerged as we have walked alongside each other not only in our organized meetings but in weddings, births and deaths. We no longer formally meet as a group, but we remain friends — the bridges we built are holding. Many of the Muslim women in our dialogue group have now formed a non-profit to provide a counseling and shelter for Muslim women who are victims of domestic violence. One of the founders of this non-profit often says that finding friendship and safety in our women’s dialogue group gave her the courage to form this much needed service to our Dallas Muslim community. We were honored by the Dallas Peace Center with a peacemaker award! As a Christian, my faith teaches me that there is hope in a brighter, more just and compassionate future is possible even in the midst of great tragedy. As a nation, we suffered a great loss on 9/11, but we have also arisen out of the ashes to new life. For me, Christ’s resurrection from death is made tangible in the new friendships across the faiths that the women formed through this dialogue group. Fear and hate of each other have given way to peace and love.

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Lisa M.

I remember driving southbound on Central Expressway to SMU, on my way to work, after dropping my kids off at school. Radio stations kept talking about an airplane crash in NYC – I thought commerical flight type accident. By the time I got to the office, students/faculty/staff were gathered around TV in my building. I asked what was going on, and was told it was a “terrorist attack”. Minutes later, we all are watching the 2nd plane crash live in New York. It was just a feeling of shock and numbness. I immediately checked on my children at school. They all have counselors in place/some kids were released early. I just kept on working, and encouraged my children to maintain some sense of normalcy so they would not freak out. School counselors were awesome! It was a day we all came together as a nation. Never again should Americans feel complacent living in our country. Terrorism is no longer exempted from our hometowns. At the same time, we should not punish Muslim Americans for what happened. Lessons learned for me and my children is that we all need to learn to get along, accept each other’s differences and learn to co-exist in harmony. The victims of 911 did not die in vain. We all should be better human beings because of it.

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Emmanuel van Hulst

I remember being on vacation with my family in Virgina on 9-11-01 and being the first to wake up in our hotel room and having a feeling that I should turn on the Television. I was shocked by what I was seeing. The first plane had hit just minutes prior to me tuning in and I rushed to wake up my brother in the bed next to me since he had just been telling me about other attempted attacks in years past on the Twin Towers. soon everyone was up and awake with our eyes locked on the screen when just seconds later, as we were watching live, the second plane hit with a massive fireball. I watched it swoop down and impact and at that young age, I’ll I could think of was… “What in the world is going on?!?” with a great sense of fear. Nothing was the same after that. We were planning on driving up to Washington DC and when we got there everything went on lockdown and we couldn’t see the White House or the Capital building. In the days following, as more and more news came out about what had actually happened that day, it became apparent that our world would never be the same.

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I was getting ready for my early morning Spanish Lab at SMU (complaining the whole time). I sat down on the couch in my apartment to watch Good Morning America before heading out. I was drinking a cup of coffee and eating a pop-tart that promptly fell from my hand as I watched the plane crash into the tower. Not sure how long I sat stunned before calling my mom and telling her to turn on the TV. She was none too happy that I was waking her up but by that time it was obvious that America was under attack. I can remember saying those exact words to her as she was shocked into silence by what she saw as well.

I didn’t make it to Spanish Lab that day or any of my classes on campus. Every time I stepped away from the television something else happened. More planes were missing, more buildings were burning. The logic in me said it had nothing to do with my presence at the screen, yet I couldn’t pull myself away for fear I would return to another new tragedy. I lived near the airport and for the first time silence was all I heard in Dallas.

The next day back on campus there was a feeling of sadness and horror mixed with an unexpected unity that hadn’t been there before. SMU (just as the U.S. as a whole) banded together to comfort one another. Professors and students gathered in Hughs Trigg between every class to watch updates and even pray. And just as our country was separated between pre and post 9/11 for me so was SMU. I kept the student paper that next day to always remember how it felt to go back out into the world after it had changed so dramatically and how my feelings of fear and uncertainty morphed into courage and pride at our nation and our campus.

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