By Kimberly Crone
Media Club Reporter
On the evening of Sept. 11, a group of about 10 Central Penn students, faculty and staff gathered at the flagpole in front of the school’s Summerdale campus to mark the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, and the crash of a jetliner in Western Pennsylvania that was headed to attack Washington, D.C.
Kathy Andersen, director of compliance, read a timeline of events from Sept. 11, beginning with the first plane that struck the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at around 8:45 a.m. Community-service sorority Gamma Beta Phi helped organize the event.
After reading the timeline, Andersen asked whether anyone had thoughts or a story to share.
Adjunct professor Matthew Brown recalled that he was in a new section on the third floor in the Pentagon when the jet flown there crashed into the floors below.
Despite watching the New York City events unfold on TV, it didn’t readily occur to Brown that the Pentagon had also been hit by a jetliner. He thought it was a bomb. He said everyone’s computers exploded and the room immediately began to fill with smoke.
Safely evacuated, it was only after arriving home in Alexandria, Virginia, that afternoon, that he learned exactly what had happened.
Though he said he certainly understood why most of the attention was focused on the attacks and subsequent heroism in New York City, Brown said acts of heroism at the Pentagon didn’t get enough attention.
Central Penn student Ashley Bartlebaugh lived in Fairfield, Pa., near Gettysburg, at the time. She recalled seeing helicopters everywhere and hearing rumors that President Bush was hiding out at Camp David, in northern Maryland, 20 minutes from Ashley’s home.
A fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, which hijackers intended to fly into the U.S. Capitol, crashed in a field in Somerset County, about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh, after passengers overpowered the terrorists. A memorial, operated by the National Park Service, was built there.
Ben Doan, also a Central Penn student, said he was in high school during 9/11, and was able to watch the second attack on a classroom TV.
“It is absolutely heart-wrenching, but comforting, to know that American survival instinct is to go help the less fortunate,” he said.
Nate Burgess recalled that his office at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism in New Cumberland had a multimedia system, so he and his coworkers were able to watch the carnage as it transpired.
He was supposed to fly to Dallas the next day, but the flight was cancelled as security tightened. Burgess, a Central Penn senior, recalled the increased presence of military personnel – a sight commonly seen in other countries, but foreign to the United States.
Even today, Burgess said, some people are skittish about getting on airplanes because of the attacks.
Though the events of 9/11 happened 14 years ago, the devastation is still fresh in many people’s minds. Nearly everyone can recall what he or she was doing on that fateful day. We all had the rug ripped out from beneath what were once steady feet. We all had to work through our nightmares, trying to make sense of something that made absolutely no sense.
Al-Qaeda’s attempt to destroy the fabric of America failed. On that day, the terror group appeared to have won the battle, but ultimately lost the war to break the American spirit. On that day in the days that followed, Americans proved our strength and determination to overcome adversity.