The UBalt Community Remembers 9/11: 20 Years Later
This year marks 20 years since the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. Many remember where they were when they heard about the hijacked planes, or recall seeing the World Trade Center Twin Towers fall on television news, or know someone who was living in New York City or working in the Twin Towers. Those living in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area at the time worried about the safety of friends and family working in or close to the Pentagon and other government offices.
Video: Josiah Guthland, Director, The Bob Parsons Veterans Center
Josiah Guthland was 16 when he heard about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in a school announcement. Twenty years later, Guthland, now director of The Bob Parsons Veterans Center at The University of Baltimore, reflects on how that day changed the course of his life.
UBalt Community Testimonials
Ben Wainio, B.S. '68
My 9/11 Experience is very personal. I lost my daughter Honor Elizabeth Wainio that day. She was a passenger on United Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I remember that day and the events every day since 9/11.
I was on the phone talking with my wife that morning when she saw that another call was coming in. She was waiting to hear from our son Tom, who was in Washington, D.C., and was coming home as a result of the Pentagon tragedy. Thank God we had call waiting. My wife put me on hold to take that call. It was our daughter Elizabeth. She was calling to tell my wife Esther and the rest of the family goodbye. She knew who to call in her time of need. We consider ourselves lucky because we had the comfort of hearing from her before she and the other passengers and crew did something to prevent further tragedy to anyone other than themselves. One of the things that she told my wife was that this was going to be harder on us than it was on her. Her last words were that she had to go because they were getting ready to break into the cockpit. She hung up the phone and the rest is history. I remember having to call my wife back because she never came back to me on the phone.
I asked her if our son was OK, and she said it wasn't him that called; it was Elizabeth and her plane had been hijacked. I screamed upon hearing the news. My wife did not want me to drive home; so, she contacted my boss and asked her if she could get me home safely. My wife had called 911 and the police responded. They pulled me aside to let me know that Flight 93 was indeed down somewhere over Pennsylvania. I knew that I had to get my other daughter Sarah (age 14) home from school. She was a freshman at Catonsville High School. I did not want her to find out from the news. The police went out of their way to help—they drove me over to the school and got me in because it was on lockdown. I remember seeing Sarah walk down the hall from the gym, with me standing there with the principal and two police officers. She knew something was bad. I told her in the backseat of the vehicle on our way home that Elizabeth's plane was hijacked. On our way back to our house, as we were driving up, I saw our son in anguish on the ground. He had just gotten home and heard the news from Esther. As soon as he saw us getting out of the car, he went to his sister and hugged her. All of us were crying, as were our neighbors and the police. Later that day, we met with the FBI so they could get as much information as possible from Esther because she was the one who got the phone call from Elizabeth. The rest of the day was spent notifying friends and relatives about the tragedy that has impacted us. I will never lose those images from that day. I also knew that her phone call was both a blessing and a burden. I told Esther that she better be prepared because her story of our daughter's conversation with her was one that the media would want to know—a daughter and a mother saying goodbye to each other. We were lucky, in a way, because Elizabeth was living in New Jersey working for Discovery Communications, and the local media did not pick up that she was from Catonsville; so, we did have some peace from local TV and radio for the first couple of weeks. I also have to say that we were thankful for the Baltimore County Police being at our house to prevent the media from coming onto our property just in case they did.
That is my memory of that day. It will never go away. The magnitude of that day makes it easier for me to understand the death and murder of our daughter. As I said earlier, she worked for Discovery Communications as district manager for New York/New Jersey retail stores. She had been the manager of Discovery's Harbor Place location before being promoted to New York.
They helped to establish the Honor Elizabeth Wainio Memorial Scholarship at Towson University (Elizabeth graduated in 1995). They made a $50,000 dollar donation in 2001. Since then, we have had an annual fundraiser in her honor to help fund this scholarship. It is usually held every year in September or October at the Ropewalk in downtown Baltimore. It started out as a group of friends organizing the get together, and then Towson got involved and helped to expand the celebration and communication of this annual event. This year's event is scheduled to be held on October 23 at the Ropewalk from 2-6 p.m. It includes an open bar, hors d'oeuvres and a silent auction. It is well attended and we raise a lot of money for her scholarship. Before this event though, I will be at the 20th anniversary memorial service at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I continue to go each year to be with and support the other families from United Flight 93.
Thanks for allowing me to share my experience with you. It makes me feel good to let everyone know about United Flight 93.
Lee J. Kaufmann, M.P.A. '89
I was retired from the Baltimore County Fire Department—rank of Captain, station/shift commander. My wife was still working as a veterans benefits counselor for the Baltimore office of the Veterans Administration. I was watching The Today Show and catching up on the earlier happenings of the morning. The first tower was burning, but still standing. NYFD units were already on location with more responding. A remote TV crew was filming some distance away and happened to catch the second plane impact the second tower. As I sat riveted to the TV screen in anticipation of additional details on the attack, deeply worried for my wife in the federal building downtown, I watched as the Twin Towers came down. I would soon learn about the other highjacked flights and their targets and fateful endings. I also soon learned that I had lost 343 brother firefighters that morning.
Joanne Venturella, B.A. '77, U.S. Army Veteran
I served in the Army Nurse Corps during the Vietnam War, served as a civilian nurse in Stuttgart during Desert Storm, and yet felt unprepared for the horror of having our country attacked. On September 11, I was an Infection Control Nurse at Franklin Square Hospital in Baltimore. I had retrained for this job after an injury. I had less than a year's' experience (previously ER and ICU) when the hospital president called to ask what our response should be. This was when I realized terrorism is Infection Control's area. We were the sister hospital to Washington Hospital Center and would soon be receiving their overflow patients from the Pentagon. So, I canceled all elective surgeries, directed that all patients be reviewed for early discharge, and prayed that we could do what was needed. I have never felt such fear but was impressed with the hospital's quick response. As an aside, my husband worked at the National Security Agency and at that time, was at the Pentagon several days a week. He and 47 others were at a golf tournament that day. They were told not to return to work because evacuation was going on. It was only later that I realized that their office was very near where the plane hit. Thank God for the serendipity.
Joshua Michaeli, MBA '99
September 2001 found me working in Downtown Manhattan for a national Jewish nonprofit group, utilizing the MBA I received at UBalt to secure grants for underprivileged children. My daily routine was such that my carpool would drive to Jersey City, New Jersey, where we would aboard a PATH train to the World Trade Center at 8:30 a.m., arrive at the WTC stop at 8:45 a.m. and from there, walk the few blocks to my office. The experience at WTC was both exhilarating and inspiring, as I would exercise my body and mind to view the very top of the building by bending backwards, as if playing limbo, and then imagine how much greater and higher God is. I would then head on to the office.
On that fateful day, 9/11, there was considerably higher volume of road traffic during rush hour, inhibiting us from reaching our destination at the usual time. With all of us young and in our 20s, we had the radio off so that the passengers could catch up on dearly missed sleep. We finally made it to the PATH train stop, whereupon we were told that due to "police activity at WTC" all trains headed downtown were canceled. Anyone who wished to enter NYC would have to enter through the midtown train route, which is what we did, still not knowing what the "police activity" was about.
After the first stop, we disembarked and headed for a NY train so we could head downtown to our respective offices. By this time, both towers of WTC had been struck, but we were still unaware of what was happening. While on this train ride, the conductor apparently forgot to shut the overhead speaker and there was lots of screaming between him and central command. We were quite unnerved and wondering why there was so much yelling, as we were still unaware of what was going on, not yet having entered the city streets. Meanwhile, someone on the train must have seen our puzzled faces or heard us talking and said simply, but matter of factly, "the Towers have been attacked by passenger planes." Having grown up in NY (and being used to the characters that ride the train regularly, from performers to drunkards to panhandlers and the like) we totally dismissed this report as pure idiocy. At a certain point, the screaming on the overhead speaker became definitive: "All passengers MUST leave the train IMMEDIATELY! I repeat, all passengers MUST leave the train IMMEDIATELY!" Still unaware what was happening, we exited the bowels of the train system to head on to the city streets and eventually to our office.
When we exited to the street a mere few blocks from WTC, the scene was out of this world, and that is an understatement. Throngs of people, thousands upon thousands, eyes peering heavenward toward downtown Manhattan and watching a sight totally unimaginable and incredible—pillars of intense smoke and a skyscraper in flames! This was our first real awakening to what really happened and it was a terribly, rude awakening. I naively asked an observer what happened to the south tower and they said the tower had collapsed!
My body began shaking and I felt faint but joined the crowd watching the events unfold. It was a few minutes later that my faint feeling reached a point that I felt I was almost passing out and gasping to breathe, when I saw humans jumping out of the building from high floors to escape the burning fire in which they were trapped, but what was to be certain death. It was at that point that I decided for my mental health and to not pass out on the city streets that I would no longer look at the WTC building. I found a street lamp pole and began leaning on it for support. Just a few minutes later, the crowd began screaming at the top of their lungs as the north tower began crumbling to the ground. I peeked for just a second and then felt my knees buckling from under me and I now clutched that pole for dear life. It was a chilling, shrill moment of fright that remains seared in my memory, as the things people were saying are not even repeatable, frankly. The police started screaming for everyone to evacuate the area and throngs of emergency vehicles began racing to find their way toward the former WTC buildings to attempt to assist those in peril. In my haste to exit the area, my friend and I jumped into a random car with the guy driving offering us a ride toward the Williamsburg Bridge. His tone was weird but it couldn't have been more accurate: "This is like an apocalypse!" Yes, it sure was.
He dropped us off at the bridge and we crossed on foot and headed into another car toward Brooklyn, where I had a car parked from earlier in the week. During this whole time, I had not reached my wife and all she knew was that her husband's train entered the WTC stop at 8:45 a.m. daily and now it was 12:30 p.m. and still no word from him. She thought she became a widow. When I walked into my parents' home, there was soot and dirt on my clothes, but I didn't even pay attention or notice it. I was in a total daze. Finally, at 5 p.m., the roads back to NJ had opened and my friend and I got into the car back home. It was one of the most eerie rides I ever took, as this was officially "rush hour" for traffic and there were perhaps two or three cars on the road in total. When I returned alone some two weeks later to head back to my office, my carpool having disbanded, Manhattan looked like a war zone with National Guard troops everywhere, gated streets barring entry to certain places and a very spooky feeling about the beautiful landscape that once encapsulated downtown.
My life definitely changed on 9/11. I follow the dictum that President Bush issued of replacing "acts of terror" with "acts of kindness" and try to see the good in everyone. I now look up to the sky heavenward and although the WTC Towers are gone, I know that God is indeed higher and I seek His support and meaning in my life in a more concerted manner. God bless us all and God bless America!
Associate Director of Student Support, Office of Student Support, The University of Baltimore
September 11, 2001 was an incredibly tragic day and one that came with significant complexity for me as a teenage Brown American. I recall vividly being on a field trip visiting the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon Journal, the two largest newspapers serving northeast Ohio. I remember watching the news trickle in and having our visit to the journal canceled because of the newsroom needing to jump into action.
I recall getting home from school that day and seeing my father's car at home, stunned because he was like USPS—nothing stopped him from being at work. "No one wants to shop today" was his reply when I asked why he left his store to come home. We sat glued to the coverage, like many Americans, calling loved ones in New York making sure they were safe and fielding calls from across the globe from family not as familiar with American geography, checking in to make sure we were safe.
In the days that followed, I was flooded with emotions: the anger of my country being attacked, the fear and sadness of watching other Brown Americans being persecuted or attacked, praying for the safety of our country and troops, and the loneliness of walking into school and being seen differently through no action of my own.
High school is never easy, and often unkind at best, but the days after the attack I felt raw. The comments and jeers became all too real. My friends and caring teachers became unsung heroes and allies that carried me through and lifted me up in ways for which I will forever be grateful. Simultaneously, it became my mission to ensure my father had an American flag in his store. As a teenager I could not control anything, but that small act felt like salvation and a way to protect us.
September 11, 2001 was not the creation of my dual consciousness, but it was the experience that crystalized my understanding of what it was to be an 'other' in our society. I still shutter at the memory of that day. It was an attack on our nation and a deafening blow in the American dream my parents had fought so hard to provide for our family. Our country experienced a massive loss that day, and its ripple effects in communities of Brown families persist even to this day.
Tyler Walch, J.D. candidate '23, U.S. Army Veteran
I was a young 10-year-old fifth-grader on Sept. 11, 2001. Despite my age at the time, I remember that harrowing day well and in detail. I'll never forget the unity that followed—that sense of community, Americanism, and a commonly held commitment to mutual helpfulness. It was a sad day that soon brought about an immeasurable amount of patriotic fervor as we put aside our differences to defeat our terrorist enemies. Although I did not recognize it at the time, that resurrection of national pride and our absolute dedication to defeating the organized terror that attacked us had a profound impact on my future. If not for that day, I highly doubt that I'd have been inspired to serve in the Army. If not for that day, I highly doubt I'd be living in Maryland or using my GI Bill to attend law school. I may have only been 10 years old, but that day played a defining role in making me the man I am 20 years later.
Joe Brooks, B.S. '74
My story begins on Sept. 10, 2001. My wife, daughter and I were on vacation in New York. It was our last day and we had train tickets to return home to Baltimore later that afternoon. This left time for one last sightseeing trip. We debated going in town to the World Trade Center but based on our schedule, we decided the nearby Empire State Building would be a better option. As we stood on the observation deck, admiring the view of that amazing metropolis bellow us, my wife took a picture of me. In the background are the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Little did we know how tragically different that view would be exactly 24 hours later.
After the train ride back to Baltimore on the evening of the 10th, I was off to work at the Social Security Administration headquarters the following morning as usual. I was called out of my office by an employee who had heard the news of an airplane crash at the World Trade Center. Believing this was a horrible accident, we put on the TV coverage for more information. As we watched, the second plane crashed into the other tower, and we all knew this was an attack not an accident.
As further news of additional attacks at the Pentagon and in the fields of Pennsylvania were broadcast, it was evident this was not an isolated incident but acts of war playing out over a wide range of interstate targets. I called my wife and made sure she and my daughter were aware of the attacks and were safe. There were administrative matters to be handled as orders to evacuate our buildings were issued. For the first, and thankfully only, time in my federal career, I had to dismiss my staff due to an ongoing attack on our country and its federal institutions.
After the employees were all safely out of the headquarters complex, another manager and I remained. We were horrified, shocked and angered by what was happening. We hated the thought that the actions of some terrorist group would force us to interrupt our mission of public service. We remained on duty until the end of the day but left not knowing when we would be allowed to return or if it would be safe to do so.
When we did return, the large screen TVs used for training and public service announcements carried non-stop coverage of the aftermath of the attacks and warnings of more terrorism to come. It was very difficult to concentrate on anything else at that time.
My community of Dundalk, Maryland is known for its unabashed patriotism. In addition to the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades, the flags fly in great numbers throughout the neighborhoods there. It was no surprise when an impromptu gathering was scheduled there during that awful week. The local Heritage Park was the site where hundreds of families gathered at sunset to hear words of healing and hope from local political, religious and civic leaders. Several groups provided an array of patriotic songs that were sung with great emotion as the crowd lit candles to brighten the darkening night. It's something I will never forget.
The tourist industry in New York and small businesses that relied on visitors were crippled. When it was possible, we booked a trip to NY with a guided tour of Ground Zero to pay our respects. We drove to Pennsylvania to witness the site of the crash of the hijacked United Flight 93. We stood in the foreground of the area where the plane of 40 patriots tore a wide gap in the heavily forested tree line at the edge of an open field. We knew it was hallowed ground and the tiny crosses, flowers, drawings and notes from the children and families in the area were a fitting tribute to the courage of those passengers who fought and died to prevent even more tragic loss.
My wife and I loved to travel. I remember the feeling of isolation when we looked at the empty sky knowing all air travel was halted. There was a lot of trepidation and a completely new book of security rules to follow when the planes returned to the skies. We wanted to be among the first back in the air to show our country would not be stopped by the irrational, inhuman and cowardly acts of terrorists. We learned firsthand the new and intense security measures necessary to fly once again. During our stay in Florida, the outpouring of solidarity, nationalism and support was evident everywhere we went. Marquees and billboards all carried signs of condolence, prayer and hope. Hotels raised banners and placed signs throughout their buildings thanking visitors for travelling again.
Time continues to gradually lessen the vivid anxiety and anger of those days. Unfortunately, it has much more quickly erased the feelings of unity and support for all, regardless of race, religion or party affiliation. Through some of the darkest days of my lifetime, that light of kindness and concern for one another was inspiring. If only we could find a way back to that unity of humanitarian spirit without the threat of immense tragedy and loss at the hands of a common enemy, my memories would be better ones.
Anthony Butler, M.A. '02
Director, Henry & Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Center for Student Engagement and Inclusion, The University of Baltimore
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was working at UBalt as a graduate student in the Center for Student Involvement. I remember listening to the car radio on my way to campus that morning, a little before 8:45 a.m. At that time, there was no unusual news, and everything seemed normal. By the time I had parked, and walked to the office, the first plane had hit the World Trade Center. At that time, one of the few TVs on campus was in the Center for Student Involvement, and a number of several staff and students were huddled around that little 13-inch screen. There, we watched together as the events of the morning unfolded, and as the realization dawned on us that the world was changed forever. I can remember the hushed conversations, whispers, and tears, as we all came to grips with what was happening. Campus was closed at noon that day and we were sent home. I remember, during the drive home, feeling this palpable sense that the landscape around us had shifted measurably. I'm grateful that UBalt is honoring the alums who perished on that day, and recognizing the 20th anniversary as both a milestone and a solemn remembrance.
Deborah J. Weider-Hatfield, J.D. '99
I remember clearly the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and have often thought about it since then. I was in our home in North Haven, Connecticut, getting ready to meet my class at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU). My husband John (former dean of the Merrick School of Business at UBalt) was already in his office at the University of New Haven, where he served as executive vice president and provost. As I drove down the Wilbur Cross Parkway to meet my students at SCSU, I thought about the people in the planes and in the Twin Towers. I also thought about what I would say to my students. By the time I reached campus, classes had been canceled; even so, I found some of my students in our classroom. I remember feeling devastated and telling my students that "our country will never be the same."
My memories of Sept. 11, 2001 are never far away because they are forever linked with the happy memories of our trip to New York City in 1980 with John's parents. A large picture frame with five pictures of the four of us having fun in NYC hung in our hallway in North Haven in 2001; today, it hangs in my home in St. Louis. Three of the pictures taken in June 1980 show the Twin Towers in the background. I still feel devastated by Sept. 11, 2001, and I know now that our country changed forever due to the terrible events of that day.
Financial Analyst, Office of Shared Services, The University of Baltimore
Over 5,000 miles from New York City, in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, I was forced to postpone my trip to Jos where I was pursuing admission into college. A massive, violent religious crisis had erupted, and over seven days, innocent citizens were being killed daily, in the hundreds. My father, with the assistance of a military patrol vehicle, went to extract my sister (and as many other students as they could fit) from the University of Jos, where thousands were stranded. It was a shock that such violence could rock the peaceful city of Jos. Social media had not become the source of real-time news that it is today, so we relied on TV news for updates on the situation. Surprisingly, when we turned on the TV for updates on the ongoing bloodshed in Jos, it was a different tragedy that dominated all the news stations—even the local ones. Four airplanes had been hijacked by terrorists:, two had crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the third had crashed into the Pentagon in DC and the fourth had crashed in Pennsylvania. It was heartbreaking to learn more details of the events; the death toll in both Jos and NY were absolutely devastating. However, in the aftermath, I experienced a wide range of feelings: horror at how such a thing could have happened to the strongest country in the world; vulnerability as a citizen and resident of a weaker country; total awe and admiration for the American response (first responders, civil organizations, private businesses, individuals); and sadness over the lackadaisical response to the Jos crisis. Within days, people were back to business as usual despite the gory visuals from the crisis still in the streets in Jos. After moving to the United States and seeing the memorials (and experiencing the "never again" resolve), the contrast in response was again glaring. Each year I participate in an event to remember the lives lost on 9/11 and I think of those lost in Jos, and my heart aches for the many more that continue to be lost to domestic terrorism and insecurity in Nigeria. On this 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, I join with all Americans to honor the memories of the people we lost and to celebrate the effort to ensure "Never Again!" But I also honor the memories of those lost in Nigeria in 2001 and since, as well as those in captivity.
Judith Krummeck, M.F.A. (Creative Writing & Publishing Arts) '14
Excerpt from Old New Worlds (Green Writers Press, 2019)
We all have our 9/11 stories. Mine is that I was home on that sunny Tuesday morning when Douglas called me from the road on his way up to Mount Gretna.
"Two planes have hit the World Trade Center in New York," he said.
It sounded terrible, but the true significance of it didn't immediately hit me.
"Turn on the television!" he said.
With him still on the line, I did as he said. I saw the first tower come down.
"I'm very upset," he said, his voice shaking. And he repeated, more vehemently, "I'm very upset."
I couldn't grasp the enormity of it. I couldn't fathom the implications. Maybe because he is more left-brained, maybe because he is a native-born American, he knew immediately, instinctively what this meant.
When I drove to work at the radio station, I got there without knowing how, just taking the familiar route with my mind glued to the events unfolding in New York—and, by now we knew, also at the Pentagon and at a field in Pennsylvania. This was one of those times when you walk and eat and go through the motions of living while another part of you exists on a different level altogether. I ran my eye over the playlist that I'd programmed the day before and substituted a few pieces of music that were now inappropriate in these inconceivable circumstances. At three o'clock, I went on the air.
Typically, there may be five or six high-priority news bulletins that come down the Associated Press wires during the course of my five-hour air shift. On that day, there were five or six per minute. Instead of reading five distinct newscasts, each music break turned into a mini newscast as I frantically sifted through the continuous stream of late-breaking stories from the AP, trying to pluck out the most salient and vital facts. In between, I played beautiful music. And listeners called in tears to say "thank you" because they could no longer bear being saturated with the constant barrage of horror and the repeating visuals of the towers falling on television. Each story I read caught in my throat, but that was so utterly insignificant in the scheme of things. I just had to keep on doing it because this was all I could do; it was all I could contribute.
Two days later, I interviewed the pianist Emanuel Ax, who was playing the season opening concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He put it the best when he said, "It's the one thing we can do, you know. I'm not a doctor, I'm not a rescue worker. All I can do is provide something for people to hold on to."
When my air shifts began to settle down into their familiar rhythm again, my delayed reaction set in like a hollow echo. I fought it because I had no right to it. It was not my city; I didn't know anyone who had been directly affected. But I was disorientated, and waves of depression would swamp me out of nowhere. Gradually, I began to understand what my grieving was about: America—my country of four months and one week—had received a body blow, and in the process, she had lost the openness, the kind of guileless candor that had made me fall in love with her. I began to understand what Douglas had grasped instinctively: something had shifted fundamentally, and it would never be the same.
There was also an insistent question crowding out my thoughts, and eventually I had to force myself to ask it. What was it that had stirred up enough hatred to impel a group of people to attack so profoundly this country that was now my own? Was it an element of smugness and brashness, born out of the confidence of superior strength and security? I didn't want to believe it.
It was a Tuesday, and I was home from work, because I had just had vocal cord surgery and was advised not to talk for a week. I took the weekday advantage to paint my porch railing. During a break, I noticed that my neighbor was sitting in his yard, listening to the radio. The neighborhood was unusually quiet. I am not a TV watcher, and routinely listen to the radio only in the car so, by evening, I was still unaware of the event. I drove to my usual chamber music session and was told that it was canceled. There was no mention of the reason why. On the way home, I heard the president on the air talking about the event. I felt so stupid, having gone to play chamber music after such a momentous event. Of course, not stupid, but I felt guilty that I should have known about these world changing moments.