NYIT Remembers September 11th Ten Years Later

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As September 11, 2011 approaches, the nation prepares to mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It’s going to be an emotional time for the country and its citizens, especially here in the New York area, where the worst of the attacks took place.

September 11, 2001 was the day terrorism struck The United States—at the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. Given our proximity to New York City, 9/11 affected the NYIT community in so many different ways.

The day following the attack on America, while the World Trade Towers were still a smoldering ruin and stunned New Yorkers woke up to a world that would never be the same, NYIT President Dr. Edward Guiliano announced the closure of the Manhattan, Old Westbury, and (then) Islip campuses. But with it came a statement of solidarity and support. “We have always been a strong community,” the President wrote. “We continue to receive information about how we can help one another as well as help others, including through donating blood, assisting in relief efforts, and providing support to one another. You will be hearing about these and other opportunities in the coming days,” the letter read.

On campus that day, students, staff, professors, and faculty members consoled each other as they watched the news unfold on TV. Flight 11 was the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, North Tower 1 at 8:46 a.m. This was a time when many were still at home getting ready for work. Among them was Clyde Doughty, Jr., NYIT’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation. “On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up as any other morning and was preparing for work. I get a call from the head women’s basketball coach, Joe Hennie, telling me that a small plane crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings. I immediately turned on the TV and watched the smoke billowing out of the building,” Doughty recalls. Doughty said he began to suspect that this was not a small plane, given the amount of smoke he could see billowing out of the building. By then, he was on the phone with recreation supervisor Sheldon Schneider, who had called to discuss the situation. As they were both watching TV together while on the phone, they—like millions of other horrified Americans—saw the second plane strike, live. “We both knew than that it was no accident and it was only the beginning of more terror to come.  As I watched in anguish, I thought about the movie Towering Inferno (Towering Inferno is a 1974 action disaster film about a skyscraper fire) and thought about how is everyone going to get out of the buildings and put the fire out.”

Doughty headed to campus, he recalled, listening “in tears to 1010 News. I thought about my friends in the area and those I knew that worked in the building and I prayed for their safety.” Arriving on campus, he went to the SAC building, where he and his staff did what so many others were doing on campus that morning. They gathered around a TV together, and watched the disaster unfold. “We watched the flames and smoke and then without warning the first tower imploded, crashing to the ground with white smoke escaping through the air reaching all over the borough of Manhattan and parts further. Moments later, the second tower fell. I stood in solemn, shook, and could hear the tears of individuals who had gathered in the SAC that morning,” he said.

Professor Robert Sherwin had an early class that morning and recalls not knowing how to teach a class “with such a dark cloud hanging over the city,” he said. “For the first hour or so, we had a very candid conversation about what happened, where everyone was the moment of impact, and how we each dealt with the chaos and the immediate aftermath. Probably the most interesting, although not surprising, element was that students incorporated 9/11 narrative in their short films throughout the semester. The films that semester were generally better and much more introspective than most student films submitted in Film 101.”

Cindy Davis, now an English professor, was an adult student at NYIT on September 11, 2001. “I had just brought my four and two year old sons to pre-school,” said Davis, who was also the Managing Editor of the Campus Slate at the time. “When I got home I received a frantic phone call from the mother of my oldest and dearest friend, ‘Do I know what floor Cathy works on? A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.’ I put on the TV and could not believe my eyes,” she said. Davis stopped going to school and began working online. She says “I felt sad, overwhelmed and alone. I thought I was going to lose my friend. I had two young children, a husband that was in California and two exchange students from Slovakia studying at NCC. I felt responsible for a lot of people and unsure how to proceed.”

Professor John Hanc arrived on campus while the tragedy was unfolding for his 11 a.m. class. “Nothing had been cancelled yet,” he recalled. “I figured I had better show up, if nothing else, to be there with the students.” As he walked into Education Hall he recalls seeing a female student sitting outside on the curb sobbing hysterically, as a friend tried to console her. “I remember thinking, ‘she must have a friend or a loved one in the Towers,’” Hanc recalls. “But I didn’t know who she was and never saw her again. So I always kind of wondered if her loved one turned up safe or not.”

Hanc, the faculty advisor for The Campus Slate was teaching a journalism class that day. He called the lesson off after learning about the unfolding tragedy. “Instead, we tried to watch the coverage. Oddly enough, the only thing we could get on the TV in the classroom at Ed Hall was a BBC feed that was being broadcast on Channel 21,” he said. “So we watched the 9/11 coverage the way ti was being seen in Great Britain. It was an interesting if unintended lesson in journalism.” Still, it was clear that there would be no business as usual that day or for many days to come. Hanc said “I remember looking around the room at my students, and they looked like they were in shock. That morning, they also looked a lot younger to me. They seemed really scared, and could blame them?”

Dr. Elaine Brown, Chair of the English Department recalls the horrific day as one that started off as a “beautiful fall day.” It was 9:35 a.m., she said when Brown learned from her administrative assistant that a plane hit the Trade Center. They questioned if it was a small plane and if it could be an accident. Brown rushed to her car in the parking lot and turned on the radio. The then Don Imus show was on air, she said, and they were discussing the event at the World Trade Center. That’s when Brown went to her class and reported what she heard to her students. “We had class. I then went out to the quad between classes. Someone had a big boom box. I heard that the United States Air Space was closed. I knew I was swimming in the middle of history now and I wondered if the students who were also listening really got it,” Brown noted. Brown then proceeded to her next class where students were upset. That’s when she canceled class and told her colleagues and students to leave the campus and be with loved ones. Brown said “When I went back to NYIT the next day, I walked into my office in the Balding House. There was an acrid smell in the air—the Twin Towers were still smoldering.”

The devastation affected people on the other side of the world as far as Shanghai, China. Communication Arts Professor Mandy Zhang recalls it being a late night in Shanghai. She was finishing a story in the newsroom at the Shanghai Daily when CNN reported the breaking news about the attacks. “Like my colleagues including several from the United States, I could not believe what had happened,” Zhang said. Zhang then proceed to work with editors on the unfolding news for the next days’ issue.

Today, Professor Davis incorporates 9/11 into her lesson plans by gathering her students in a circle and discussing what they remember. “It’s a very painful process. There is always someone that was directly affected. And whether we hear the story of the daughter who lost her father and is now inspired to go into medicine or a nephew who lost an uncle and wants to be a NYC firefighter or someone who served in the Marines, Navy, or Army, we all get to put our personal perspective, memory in a place to heal. What happened on September 11, 2001 goes beyond understanding, yet these moments of remembering, listening, and planning are necessary. Then I might have them write an essay on courage or facing fear,” said Davis.

The NYIT community was personally affected by the loss of one of its own who made the ultimate sacrifice to represent freedom of the press, and capture the moment of terror that is now a remembrance in history. 1995 NYIT Alumni, and Connetquot High School Graduate Glen Pettit was one of the 2,985 people to die at the Ground Zero. Petit worked as one of New York’s Finest, in the Video Production Unit of the NYPD and was filing the twin towers when they became engulfed in flames. The las Petit was seen was with his partner, and when one tower began to give way, Petit reportedly disappeared in the debris about 100 yards behind.

I can’t believe it has been ten years since that act of terrorism shook NYC. Whenever I see an old movie that has the towers in it or I pass the downtown sight it takes me back to the morning at home on the phone with colleagues and standing in the SAC watching and crying internally about those who perished. I pray for the soles of those who lost their lives and the families that have to carry the grief of that tragic day,” Davis concluded.

What do you remember about September 11, 2001? Let us know by sharing your thoughts below.

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “NYIT Remembers September 11th Ten Years Later”

  1. Dave Pfister on September 6th, 2011 8:18 PM

    Glen was also an Alumni of The Campus Slate. He was my photo editor when I was Editor in Chief in 1994.

    Great guy who is sorely missed by all who knew him.

    [Reply]

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