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“I drove to campus in a fog” after word of 9/11 attacks

News | 09.10.2021

Individuals recall day of terrorist attacks

Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, was clear, sunny and started normally for Tracy Richardson, Ph.D., MT-BC, dean of graduate therapy and counseling programs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. In her van on the way to campus, she heard a report on the radio that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers, seemingly a tragic aviation accident. During her stop at the dry cleaners, there were customers crowding around a TV. With the crash of the second plane into the other tower, it became obvious the country was under attack.

“I drove to campus in a fog,” Richardson said as she recalled the events.

Kristy Fry, director of creative services at the College, was watching a morning news show before work when she saw the report of the first plane crash. She spoke to a friend on the phone during her drive to campus. This is how she learned of the second collision.

“She told me that reports believed it could be a terrorist attack,” Fry said.

Once on campus, both Richardson and Fry wanted to find out more about the events. Richardson hooked up a TV that was used in the music department for instruction via VCR tapes to try and get more information.

Fry received updates online and remembered the crowds of people watching the few televisions that were on campus at the time. “There was a nervousness that came over you because you were wondering what else might happen,” she said.

Erika Van Sandt Chapman ’02 shared her recollection of her day on campus via Facebook.

“I was a senior at The Woods working my morning shift in the computer lab,” she said. She was in the lower level of Hulman Hall, where she was able to watch the events occur online from CNN. “I will never ever forget the way The Woods came together that day, and in the days following.”

Fry joined others on campus to attend a quickly assembled gathering in the Church of the Immaculate Conception. “We prayed for New York and all that was happening.” Students were told that if they needed assistance in dealing with the events that it would be provided. “It was a time to come together for one another,” recalled Fry.

Richardson had friends in New York — one who lived in Long Island whose husband was a firefighter and another who worked at NYU. They could see the first tower after it was hit and watched the second plane fly into the other tower.

“My brother had just gotten married three days before and he and his wife were on a cruise,” Richardson said. “I found out later that when they saw the reports, my new sister-in-law thought the world was ending.”

Instinctually, Richardson and Fry’s thoughts turned to their children, none of them even teenagers yet, and the effect this event might have on their young lives. They each recalled how they talked through the events with their kids and reassured they were safe.

“The country declared war on Afghanistan on my daughter’s birthday,” said Richardson.

When Fry’s daughter feared for her brother going to war, Fry reassured it wouldn’t be the case. “It was heartbreaking to see her so scared,” she remembered.

For Richardson, a board-certified music therapist, she recalled at the end of the day, how members of Congress came out to the steps of the capital to address the nation. Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert had spoken followed by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. As Daschle was leaving the podium, the more than 150 assembled legislators began to sing God Bless America.

“It was one of the best examples that I have seen of music being therapeutic,” Richardson said. “Everyone was singing regardless of party affiliation. People can find common ground through the arts.”  

Fry recalls similar memories on the aftermath and unity. “I remember people were kinder to each other and friendlier. Everyone was very patriotic, and it felt united for the next few weeks and months.”

A total of 2,977 people were killed in New York City, Washington, D.C. and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania that day. In a little over 90 minutes on the morning of September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four fuel-loaded commercial flights, crashed them into three buildings and a field and the World Trade Center buildings collapsing.

All of that seemed impossible prior to September 11. As the 20th anniversary is commemorated, the memories are still emotional and the happenings of that day still have an effect, even today.

7:46 a.m. Terre Haute time, 8:46 a.m. New York time — The North Tower of the World Trade Center was hit by the American Airlines Flight 11 that took off from Boston. It had 76 passengers, five hijackers and 11 crew members

8:03 a.m. Terre Haute time — The South Tower was hit by United Airlines Flight 175, which also took off from Boston. It held nine crew members, 51 passengers and five hijackers.

8:37 a.m. Terre Haute time — American Airlines Flight 77 with six crew members, 53 passengers and five hijackers crashed into the Pentagon. It departed from Washington, D.C.

8:59 a.m. Terre Haute time — The South Tower collapsed after burning for 56 minutes. It killed more than 800 people.

9:03 a.m. Terre Haute time — United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers and members of the crew stormed the cockpit. The flight took off from Newark with seven crew members, 33 passengers and four hijackers.

9:15 a.m. Terre Haute time — The outer ring of the Pentagon collapsed.

9:28 a.m. Terre Haute time — The North Tower collapsed, killing more than 1,000 people in and around the building.