JOURNAL(Sept. 11,2017) -I don't remember all the details now. We were just shaken to our core.
We were still at Penn State. I was in Atherton Hall with drafting tools and drawings all over desks scrambling to finish up an assignment for Working Drawings class. What a pain right then. I was exhausted but got up early to make sure I finished before our class. My roommate Michele popped into the room, still in her pajamas and told me that the WTC building in NYC was hit with a plane. I just needed to finish this assignment, so in a conceited irritated way I told her that buildings were built to handle planes. There was one that flew into the Empire State building. It's a tragedy, but it'll be fine. She left me there with my drafting. A few minutes later she yelled at me (to stop being an idiot) I'm sure, that this wasn't just a plane that flew into a building. The building fell.
What? I ran into our room and the two of us watched the news footage then. The smoking buildings. The fallen first tower.
What. I apologized and we both just got into a mode of trying to figure out what was going on. On campus, at home. There was a plane not too far away in Pa, in DC. Second tower.
The both of us started trying to call family then. We didn't know what was going on. It seemed like everyone was still either sleeping or in class already. It was between 9 and 10. Details are blurry. I don't remember people in a panic. Nor do I remember a lockdown or any campus announcements. I don't think anyone knew what to do.
Cell phones were jamming, but we got through. Those first stupid Nokia candybar phones we had.
We got dressed and I went to class to see what was going on. It was more like quiet panic, but no lockdown. No directives. Maybe I was in too much shock to remember.
I only had to walk across the Hub and Old main to get to Sackett for class. Jonathan Dougherty was there, just quiet to start. Most of us were at our drafting desks. He knew what we did on the news. He had friends in NY near the WTC and he's hadn't heard from them yet. He calmly gave us orders to meet at the Obelisk if anything happened on campus, but to go back home now and check on family and friends. He told us to call our families and let them know we loved them. We didn't know everything. We hadn't heard back from everyone. Details are a blur. The feeling of the ground being removed from under us...that remains. Later that night it was candles on the Hub lawn with close friends. We were all detail-less still then. Just needed to feel human and loved and be together. We were unsure of safety, anything. I stood with my friend Amish who immediately felt alienated and paranoid. I don't even remember if he was Muslim, but he was middle eastern. There were no words.
It was the feeling of shock and true terror and not knowing, and not being able to get in touch with anyone. And we were hundreds of miles out of NYC. So we couldn't even imagine what was really happening.
I'm sure we didn't even know if we were safe at that point, either. I was just glad for my PSU AE family that day, and Jonathan just knowing what to say and do at the moment. Our AE department would be at all of the round tables in months to follow, analyzing and assessing what had happened to the buildings, the structures themselves-if thee was anything that couldn't been done to better serve the buildings, better save the lives of people inside. I think one assessment included that the towers collapsing as they did was thanks to design, and actually minimized loss of life (I.e. collapsed only on themselves and not additional structures), although that means little now as minimized doesn't matter on that scale of catastrophe. We as students even would have future structural exams with questions related to the towers and fire and steel and collapse.
I was with Alex at that time, and he lived right across the river in NJ. Not sure how or when we decided to travel, but we were back there when smoke was still rising from the buildings.
We were in shock, numb, still waiting with his family and friends who were still waiting to hear from loved ones. We were standing on the beach then, having driven home to NJ and out to Sandy Hook. We stood, just staring at the smoke, still billowing out of Manhattan. All we could think was, "Life will never be the same. We will never forget this."
It never was.
We never will.
Remembering everyone who gave their lives that day.
Remembering those who gave (who still are giving) their lives as a result of responding that day.
More memories from PSU AE: https://www.engr.psu.edu/ae/newsletters/newsletter/Fa01/WTC.htm
Tracey Jumper, CCP