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More 9/11 memories from the ASU community and beyond

The Ground Zero memorial in New York City
September 09, 2021

The terrorist attacks that took the lives of almost 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, continue to haunt and define us some 20 years later. Those who were alive to experience the events will never forget how they felt, where they were and what they were doing when it happened because there was a life they lived before 9/11, and a life they live after.

Above: News footage and archival compilations show how in one day, a nation was forever changed by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Video by Suzanne Wilson/ASU Media Relations

We asked the ASU community and friends of the ASU community to share their experiences and stories about 9/11, and they did so with heart and generosity.

Also among the comments are the reflections and sentiments of those who were too young to personally experience the heft and historical significance of the day — those who have known no other world than the one forever altered by the events of 9/11.

Here are their stories.

Editor’s note: Some people who shared their story chose to remain anonymous.

Close encounters and twists of fate

My youngest sister worked for Lehman Brothers in the World Trade Center at that time. A news report came in about a plane flying into the World Trade Center, but I was in between sleep and awake so it hadn't quite yet registered for me when our phone rang. It was my mom: “I just wanted to let you know that Sheila's safe,” she said in a panicked voice. “She woke up with a sore throat and called in sick today so she is at home.” “OK. Safe from what?” I asked. Well, we'd soon find out a lot more about that, but I felt grateful and lucky to have been spared so much worry with that very early phone call.

— Maureen Roen, ASU staff, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

My mom worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and I always remember her story from being there when the city was attacked. The saddest thing was that so many people were “curious” to see the first plane wreckage, so they went out to go see it and ended up witnessing the tragedy (as) the second plane hit — and all the death that came with it. My mom had a bad feeling and chose to stay in her building, even when they were officially evacuated. Those who didn't disobey that order are still scarred. The most powerful and uplifting part of my mom's story was when she and others walked from the NYSE to the nearest open train with scarves covering their faces to block the smoke, which was now miles away. She said the residents of Brooklyn had lined the Brooklyn Bridge with water and first aid for people coming out of the city, showing such warmth and care that it stunned my mom.I was only 2 years old at the time, but it is the strength of her story rather than the tragedy that sticks with me from hearing it through all these years. Even though a lot of people she knew were, and are forever, impacted, the usually tough and distant city of New York, as she described it, really came together and fell into the truth that they were all linked through humanity, and that together we can all rise up no matter the circumstance. And that, to me, is beautiful.

— Jacqueline Shea, ASU student and graduate teaching assistant

A few days after the 9/11 attacks I learned that my cousin was in the south tower, the second of the World Trade Center towers to be hit, but he managed to make it to safety. When I got a hold of him he didn't want to talk about it, but he did share with me that as he was there at Morgan Stanley they were told that a plane had struck one of the twin towers but that they were safe and should return to work. He said, "All we could smell was jet fuel, so I just continued with others that were leaving the building. Nearing the exit, the second plane hit us. We all began running. I got to a bar a few blocks away and watched the TV with everyone ... in disbelief."

— Ed Spyra, ASU staff, Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

My wife and our friend Sandy were at the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., teaching a class. We received a couple of notifications from our staff liaison about the first tower bombing, then over the public address system came an announcement that our DOL building was being closed. We walked back to our hotel. It was incredibly quiet in D.C., usually a noisy city. Everyone was incredibly cooperative, even people on their porches offering us glasses of water. At the hotel, the manager immediately told us we could stay indefinitely; he had already had a dozen conferences cancel. The hotel staff rolled out big TV screens in the main lobby, tuned to CNN. We watched anxiously with little information available. We had friends and family working in the towers. We had flown into D.C. and rented a Hertz car. A call to Hertz told us we could keep the car indefinitely while paying the agreed-upon daily rate, and turn the car in at any Hertz facility in the contiguous 48 states with no relocation charges. We finished our class over the next couple of days and then drove home to Phoenix. Along the way, at restaurants and motels where we stayed, people asked us many questions about how it was in D.C. during the incident.

— Don Doerres, retired engineer from the ASU Mars Space Flight Facility

I had a flight scheduled that morning, and it was canceled. I was watching the TV and was shocked. The flight was to attend a conference in Phoenix and meet with my lender to sign loan documents to build a hotel. The meeting and the deal were canceled. It took several years before I was able to fund the hotel, and now it has been open 16 years.

— Robert Rauch, faculty associate, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

I was in Hong Kong, working for Thunderbird, so for me it happened at night. I had just turned on CNN as I was preparing to change for dinner. I watched tape of the first tower falling and watched the second tower collapse live. I remember my shock at this happening since I had just been there the week before for meetings with Pace University on the 55th floor. Fortunately, they were all on-site for a retreat. It took me eight days to get back to the U.S. and Arizona.

— Gail Yates, former staff at Thunderbird (now Thunderbird School of Global Management)

I grew up in Manhattan, and my parents were living there at the time of the attacks. I used to enjoy going to the top of the World Trade Center for the view, and there was a place in the World Trade Center building where I could get half-off tickets to local shows. It felt like part of my childhood home was being destroyed as I watched the television footage of the collapse. Later, I learned that my parents lost an associate and a friend in the World Trade Center that day. My parents lived in an apartment near a church where many of the first responders who died had worshipped. My parents watched funerals every day from their window and eventually decided to move to a more remote part of the city.

I also remember the terrifying aftermath of 9/11 in U.S. foreign policy: the new wars, the nationalism and the anti-Muslim racism. I listened to NPR on the radio with a sick feeling, waiting for the next news installment.

— Elizabeth Harris, faculty associate, College of Integrative Sciences and the Arts, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Hug your loved ones a little tighter

My wife had landed a great fellowship in Atlanta at former President Carter's center. We had a 2-month-old baby, but I took time off work — go to the fellowship! My mom also was staying with me, recovering from back surgery. It was a busy time, we thought on Sept. 10. Early on Sept. 11 I was giving a bottle to my first son — who now is an ASU junior — and turned on CNN to pass the time. Soon the second plane hit ... and then the others. I remember just the shock. It literally was unthinkable. We couldn't even conceive someone doing that — and that feeling was so painful, confusing. Like everyone else, I was glued to the TV for hours.

That night, I went out and lit a votive on the sidewalk because I didn't know what else to do. Watching the horror of those images over and over while holding the peaceful, beautiful baby was an odd contrast. My wife got one of the last rental cars in Atlanta (since of course all of the planes were grounded), and three of them made the drive home. It took them eight days. I was never so glad to have her back home.

— Chris Fiscus, associate vice president, ASU Media Relations and Strategic Communications

I remember being in bed in Tucson and having our 11-year-old daughter come into our room asking if we saw what was happening in New York. She was quickly followed by her 5-year-old sister. We had just been to the World Trade Center as a family in July of that year and taken the "virtual" helicopter ride around New York City. All four of us were in my bed watching live as the second plane crashed into the tower — it elicited a visceral reaction in all of us. My girls did not go to school that day.

We had visited New York City every year since we moved from there to Arizona in 1991. When we returned for our annual visit in 2012 and traveled across the George Washington Bridge, the gaping hole in the NYC skyline broke our hearts once again. When that 5-year-old graduated from Columbia University in 2017, our extended family took a break from our celebrations for a solemn, tearful moment at the Ground Zero Museum.

These are moments that will be with our family always.

— Terry Grant, ASU staff, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

My husband was the director of a huge nonprofit social services agency, and the headquarters were in a high-rise next to the Sears Tower in Chicago. He had to go to work in his building to coordinate any emergency measures needed. One of my sons worked in an office building near the Pentagon in D.C. All I remember is the terrible gut-wrenching fear that they were going to die in more attacks. That fear has never left me. I still have nightmares.

— Susan Cohen

I was too young when this incident took place and still remember it in bits and pieces. It gives me chills now since I understand better as an adult. Sept. 11 changed many perspectives in multiple ways — the perspective of life; how every moment matters; how every move counts; and how everything happens for a reason. I thank God in every way for keeping my dad safe that day. That one extra task that needed to be done, that actually counted a lot. And the intuition my mother had that made him change his decision of driving to work that day.

— Nikita J., robotics and autonomous systems graduate student

This was a major attack on the U.S, and I lost family and friends working in the towers.

— Don Doerres, retired engineer from the ASU Mars Space Flight Facility

My partner and I watched the news unfold on Sept. 11, 2001. We had just decided to be a couple earlier that morning. We are married now, and we always have mixed emotions about the day we got together.

— anonymous

Call to action

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was at that time an assistant chief with the Phoenix Police Department, and I was getting ready for work. I remember vividly having “The Today Show” on the news or on television, and them showing the planes as they crashed into the towers. Once I realized it wasn't a preview for an upcoming movie, and my pager — we had pagers back then — when my pager started going off, I quickly realized that my professional life was about to change immensely. And it did. I went to work, where we quickly as an executive team gathered to try to figure out and make sense of what our responsibilities were going to be. And the whole nation was doing this, and police departments around the country were doing just that.

I remember one of the assistant chiefs going up to the FBI to their command center to pass information directly back to us. And then we had to prepare a police department in a city for what we didn't know was occurring. We had no idea. What we did know is that the United States was under attack and something or things were changing. But from that point forward, I know that I worked probably the next 24, almost 36 hours straight without having the opportunity for rest. My job at the time was the assistant chief of our south patrol division. So patrol had a litany of responsibilities that we had to attend to. And I felt that as a leader within the organization, I needed to stay put and to be there for the whole thing. I did run home and shower and change clothes and those types of things, but it was a constant presence that was necessary.

So my thoughts, my memories are vivid from that day. And I don't know that they will ever leave me. Obviously we spent the next several weeks trying to figure things out. And like I said earlier, law enforcement changed that day as the United States changed. And you know, here we are 20 years later and it is a day that I think will stick with everybody that was old enough to remember what was actually going on.

— Kevin Robinson, instructor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

I was a newly promoted police sergeant in Dallas, Texas, and it was my day off from work. I heard about the first plane hitting one of the twin towers in New York City and thought, “That was a really bizarre mistake for a pilot to make.” I turned on the TV and watched the news. Then they showed the second plane hitting the other tower, and I knew it wasn't a mistake. I told my fiancée (now wife) that I was going to be called into work and it was going to be a very long shift. I was right. I was called into work, and the first day was a 20-hour shift. That was followed by 12-hour shifts without days off for nearly a month.

— Stephen Bishopp, faculty associate, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

I was a freshman in high school when the planes hit the towers. Every TV in the school was tuned into the news channel, and every student was watching. We all saw helpless Americans who were forced to make a decision that day — the decision to remain in a burning building with no way out, or take a literal leap of faith, which would result in certain death. Those images will forever be ingrained in my memory. On Sept. 13 I was in New York talking to people, passing out water and cartons of cigarettes to emergency workers, and taking pictures of the thousands of notes that were plastered across the city. The entire mood was changed from one of hustle and bustle to one of community care. Everyone came together. People were greeting each other as they walked down the streets. In an environment that was usually so fast-paced, everyone knew that it was time to slow down and pull the city back together.

The experience ultimately led to the war on terror, which dragged on for many years. It also played a role in my decision to join the Army after high school. Doing so not only provided stability to my family, but it gave me a chance to give back to the country. I am currently still on active-duty status with no plans to leave service anytime soon.

— Carmelo Waters, MPA emergency management student

As a senior at ASU (at the time of 9/11), I remember the confusion, distraction and chaos that surrounded that day both from the early morning hours and into class time. Along with other college students I struggled to make sense of the enormity of the horror and go about my daily routine. At the time, I was already planning to accept a commission as an officer in the Marine Corps upon my scheduled graduation date of May 9, 2002. I recall thinking about the change in the ensuing months as I prepared to join the first class to graduate and accept a commission following 9/11.

— anonymous, faculty

Until 9/11, I had never heard of the twin towers nor the World Trade Center, growing up in Manta, Ecuador, where I was born and raised. I had never even heard the term “terrorism” before. Now, I’m a U.S. citizen, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a current chief of police. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, sparked the need for me to serve this country, just like all the first responders who died during that tragic day.

— Jose Pelaez, ASU Online graduate (MA emergency management and homeland security)

I grew up in Connecticut, about an hour and half from New York City. I was in third grade. I remember the day very vividly. Given our proximity to the city and the gravity of the situation, the school started sending people to the office to go home. None of us understood what was going on. Teachers came in and out, crying and whispering. They had us hide under our desks. Our local fire department went to New York to help, and we heard the sirens as they passed our school. My mom picked me up and explained to me that something very serious had happened and showed me the news. It seemed so incomprehensible at the time and still does. We talked about it a lot, and I tried to rationalize what had happened. The events of 9/11 had a profound impact on me and led me to want to understand why people committed the acts of violence they did. This led me on my path to ASU to study criminology and criminal justice.

— anonymous, alumni, School of Criminology

ASU reacts

I was chair of the then Department of Languages and Literatures. We had to make a decision on what to do about classes. The President's Office encouraged us to give students the option to come in if they felt they needed to talk through the events, or stay with their close friends. My recollection is that faculty members were very willing to meet their students, however many came in, to try to bring them comfort and discuss what had happened. Once these decisions were made, my own children called in — one from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, quite close to the Pentagon attack, and one from Lewis and Clark College in Oregon. Neither had ever been through such a cataclysmic event as this, and I was reminded that I was just 19 when President Kennedy was assassinated. This memory helped me sense my children's state of mind. My daughter was in a high-rise, so I told her to go to the ground floor and stay there until more could be learned about the Pentagon attack.

That weekend after 9/11, I remember going to Sedona with friends and feeling the silence of the airways. We sat on top of Mingus Mountain and listened to the stillness. It was as if the world had stopped.

— Deborah Losse, ASU professor emerita (former chair of languages and literatures, now the School of International Letters and Cultures)

I was a first-year student at ASU, living in Ocotillo Hall. I was asleep and my father kept calling my cellphone, which I ignored so I could continue to sleep. He finally called our dorm landline, and I knew that if he was calling the landline it was serious. He told me to turn on my TV. As I was gathering my bearings, the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I remember being so confused and wondering how such a horrible accident could happen twice. As the news unfolded and we learned more information about the attacks, I remember turning to my new friends in the dorm for comfort and certainty.

Classes at ASU were canceled that day, but I remember people wandering around the campus in shock. The planes that normally flew across the Tempe sky were grounded, and it was eerie how quiet that made everything. I tell this story every year — first to the elementary students I taught, then to my own children and now to the students I teach at ASU.

— Allison Atkins, ASU alumna and lecturer, Academic Success Programs

I was a sophomore undergrad living in the Hayden West dorms during fall 2001. The memory that stands out the most for me is how eerily quiet the entire ASU campus was, mostly due to all air traffic being shut down nationwide. Although ASU is practically in the flight path of Sky Harbor, you don't have to be on campus very long before you mentally tune out the aircraft engine noise and don't even realize it's there. But when it suddenly disappeared on 9/11, it left the campus feeling unnervingly empty, even with tens of thousands of people around — no music outside the MU; no activities on Hayden Lawn. This quiet lasted for days until air traffic eventually resumed, but even then there wasn't as much as pre-9/11 since people were afraid to fly and flights were canceled. This actually came to my mind very early in the pandemic during spring 2020, when air traffic also dropped suddenly. I found myself feeling a sense of foreboding while walking around campus because it reminded me so much of 9/11.

— Jonathon Hill, classified staff, mission planner at Mars Space Flight Facility

In fall 2001, I was a third-year undergraduate majoring in English at Arizona State University. I was enrolled in several courses including Cora Fox’s Shakespeare course, which met in the mid-afternoon on the first floor of the Languages and Literature building. When 9/11 happened, my mother woke me up to watch CNN early in the morning. We thought that it was just a fire in one of the towers; a subject of some interest because my father had been a firefighter in the city for 25 years. Then we all saw the second plane hit live on television.

I drove down to campus and walked all the way in from the dirt parking lot section of Lot 59 that was north of Rio Salado in the early September heat. It was eerie: there was no air traffic flying into and out of Sky Harbor Airport overhead. In class I sat in relative silence, unable to focus on the course material. Several of the other students in the class openly wept. Afterwards, I went to my job as a server at a Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale. We were busy; people wanted comfort food. All the televisions in the bar stayed on the news.

As the next few days passed, things began to seem less meaningful than they had been before the terrorist attacks. Less than a week later I got down to campus later than I had meant to. A party bus (they used to have those in the Mill Avenue corridor) stopped at the light between Manzanita Hall and Wells Fargo Arena (now Desert Financial Arena) blared “C is for Cookie” from “Sesame Street.” This was my first reminder that there was still good in the world and that, whatever troubles were happening, whatever tragedies transpired, life would go on.

— Michael McVeigh, PhD student, graduate teaching assistant

Around the world

At the time, I was still in high school in Madrid, Spain. It was around 2 p.m. there, and I remember during class time our school director came and stopped the class to let us know that there had been a terrorist attack in New York City. We were immediately sent home. It wasn't until I got home and started watching TV that I realized the gravity of the situation. Later on, I realized that that same day I was wearing a T-shirt with the New York skyline. A tragic coincidence. I still have that T-shirt kept in my house in Madrid.

Two years after the attack I participated in a student exchange with a family in New York, and we went to the World Trade Center site, referred to at the time as Ground Zero. Two years later you could still see debris, twisted headlamps and the surrounding buildings with damage.

— Kiké Martin-Bonneville, ASU staff, School of International Letters and Cultures

On 9/11, I was on stage performing at a music festival at our high school in the city of Manta, Ecuador, where I was born and raised. After our second song, our music teacher pulled us to the side of the stage and with a tone of anxiety in his voice briefly told us about what had just happened in New York. There is a large population of immigrants from Ecuador living in New York City, so the teacher told us to make a brief announcement to all the students and parents present at the festival to make them aware in case they needed to go and contact their loved ones in the U.S. Parents nervously began leaving the auditorium, and the festival was canceled shortly after. A group of friends and I ran to the library where some other students and teachers were watching the events unfold live on television. We watched as the second plane hit the second tower.

— Jose Pelaez, ASU Online graduate (MA emergency management and homeland security)

I was in college back then (in Brazil) and I was waiting for my American literature class to start when the professor called us into the classroom, which was in this little nook where she also had her office, telling us to hurry up and come see the news on television. She had just gotten a call from a friend in the U.S. telling her about the attack. She had the TV on, and every single Brazilian channel was reporting on it nonstop. We just sat there in shock and confusion, not sure how to process it. When I got home a couple of hours later that day, my family was in front of the TV also, along with some neighbors that had come over, and that was all everyone was talking about. I remember replaying in my head the scenes of the attack for a long time and just thinking about the agony of the people who jumped out of their window. Those images left a very strong impression on me. They are still the first ones that come to mind today when I think about 9/11.

— Ligia Bezerra, assistant professor of Brazilian studies, School of International Letters and Cultures

I was working remotely for Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management at that time and had had a flight booked for Sept. 22 to spend a week on campus. I purchased my first cellphone before traveling, thinking that if anything happened on the plane, I'd at least want to be able to call home. The flight was maybe at 10% capacity. Faculty who hadn't known I would be at SU that week were shocked to see me in the hallways. Then, in mid-October of 2001 I flew with my dad and my two sisters to Ireland for a trip that had long been in the works. Again, people were very surprised to see us, asking, “How did you get here?” Most everyone we met wanted to discuss the 9/11 attacks. They not only showed a lot of compassion for us as Americans, but they shared with us their own 9/11 stories.

Many Irish people have close family members and friends on the East Coast, and some endured many hours of fear and worry waiting to hear about loved ones in the U.S. It struck me that although they were living in another country, they had been affected more than I had been, and in a way were much more tethered to what was happening on the East Coast than I was, living in the Southwest.

— Maureen Roen, ASU staff, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

I didn't hear the news about Sept. 11 — I watched it unfold. I was a master sergeant in Korea and the 25th Fighter Squadron. We have, we had 28 A-10s and we were night flying that night. My job was production superintendent — I took care of the people in the aircraft. And once they broke ground and performed their night missions using night vision goggles, that's in charge of operations. So I frequently would go into the operations building, which is a huge concrete bunker. We were 25 miles away from the demilitarized zone, 50 miles, pardon me.

So the whole base is built for war. So I wanted to check on the aircraft that were in the air, see if there's any problems. And I got called in the back, and then we were looking at the first tower that got hit and wondering, well, how can you fly an airliner into a building on a clear day?

Well, the second one hit; the room got deathly silent. And we realized that however, whatever shape it's in, we — we'd been attacked. We were at war, and we were pissed. We thought 50 miles from the DMZ — this was before Iraq and Afghanistan — we thought we were the tip of the spear. So I won't mention his name, but the major that was in charge of it — I'll call it, his call sign was Tiny 'cause he was a very large African American, so of course the pilots call him Tiny — but, he was a great guy. So he says, “I'll get them back, Tony, and you get them secure.” So as the aircraft landed, I had the pilots stay in the cockpits. Normally we would leisurely push them back into the hardened aircraft shelters, but we stuffed them in there. I made sure to stuff the ones that had the most flying hours available into the shelters that have, had fuel in them. Without any direction, I went ahead and had them stripped of all training gear, training ammunition with 30-millimeter gun, and we'll get ready for live munitions.

Meanwhile, Tiny, the major, he had just talked to his father that was in the Pentagon. I believe his father was a general there. So besides putting the squadron on a war footing, he had to worry about his dad and whether his dad survived the Pentagon, because by then we knew it. So eventually he found out his dad was OK. We all breathed a sigh of relief. We were … family. We were very close, officer enlisted, but an ironic part is at the time I was getting my pilot's license, I'd already soloed, but there was an aero club there. So a few days later, me and my instructor, Maj. Donahue, we talked and it's like, well, nobody says we can't fly; nobody says we can. But meanwhile, the base had gone to a war footing there. We weren't flying training soldiers because everything was loaded with live munition. So first we call for clearance to taxi and, well, we got it. And then we taxi down the runway.

I did my run-ups and we called for clearance to take off — and we got it. So the sky was all ours, which was pretty unusual, but on reflection, we were still grounded in United States. Nobody could fly. So the only place that there's Americans flying or one of the few places was overseas in Korea.

— Anthony Wende, ASU faculty, Polytechnic School

Sept. 11 gave us a sense of our vulnerability. We responded as the world reached out to us. Some became suspicious, but others tried to reach out and celebrate our differences.

— Deborah Losse, ASU professor emerita (former chair of languages and literatures, now the School of International Letters and Cultures)

The 9/11 attacks were directed at the United States, but the victims who were killed were from many parts of the globe. It matters because terrorism doesn't really discriminate, and I think the world has realized that none of us are immune to it.

— Anne Buckley, ASU PhD student

Life in the pause

I worked in the John Hancock tower, the tallest building in Boston, on the 40th floor. Someone heard about the attack on the radio, and the story spread from cube to cube. After the second tower was struck, people were very upset. I sat and looked out the window toward Logan Airport. Someone from my company told us we could go home for the day and they would send an update later. At the elevator bank I watched the doors close as a co-worker stood and watched, unable to get on. She was shaking. I offered to take the stairs with her and she agreed. When we arrived at the lobby level, we exited to the plaza at Copley Square. Normally bustling, it was deserted. We crossed the square toward the subway, but when we got to the station entrance, my companion was unwilling to enter. Instead, we wordlessly agreed to walk to our respective homes, which were in the same direction on Beacon Street.

The streets were silent, save the occasional emergency-vehicle siren. Up ahead, the doors of a brownstone opened, and a couple spilled out, giggling and taking pictures of each other with a disposable camera. As we approached, they noticed us and became elated. The man began walking toward us with his arm extended, “Take our picture!” Without a word, I took the camera and quickly snapped a photo. When I handed it back, the couple looked worried. We continued on our way and walked without speaking until we reached her door. I carried on to mine.

— Adam Pierno, ASU staff, Enterprise Marketing Hub

My law firm in downtown Phoenix did not close for business that day. Most others did. It was dark when the first plane hit. Still in bed, I heard about it on the radio but assumed it was a small plane and took my dogs for a walk. I heard about the other planes while walking my dogs. It was a completely audio experience for me, and although I turned on the TV in time to see the towers fall, it looked like a big cloud of dust and I didn't realize for a few hours that the buildings had pancaked down. Yes, I heard the journalists, I heard their shock, but it was so inconceivable.

When I drove out of my neighborhood, armed security guards were checking cars as employees drove into the Intel facility near my house. At the law firm, we were above the 20th floor in our building. The secretary was in tears all day because she was terrified about being in a tall building. A woman who worked near me couldn't reach her brother who was a chef at Windows on the World so she was in tears too. As it turned out, he stayed home that morning to wait for a repairman who had failed to show up the day before.

My takeaway: The people who lived were the ones who hadn't shown up on time for work. Life is random.

— anonymous, ASU faculty

I was living in Los Angeles. I had just met the band The Fixx. On Monday, Sept. 10, we got together for dinner to discuss working on a new CD project, and afterwards they invited me to go see another band named Crisis at the Troubadour. Also in the audience at the famed concert venue were the members of KISS. After a night of fun I returned home at 4 a.m. and slept fast. It was 7 a.m. in New York. As I awoke just a few hours later, I couldn't wait to get to my office to tell my coworkers my story. But then hearing the radio, and turning on the TV, I learned our world had changed. When I arrived at the office our bosses told us to go home and be with our families.

I never did share my “Night at the Troubadour” story with my coworkers. It didn't matter.

— Ed Spyra, Morrison Institute for Public Policy

In September 2001 I was still in grad school studying linguistics and teaching English to international students as a TA. I woke up Sept. 11, 2001, thinking I was going to lazily head over to Tower Records to pick up the new Ozomatli record I had been impatiently waiting for called “Embrace the Chaos.” I checked my phone to find a message from my then husband, his voice shaking, telling me to turn on the TV and (saying), “It's bad. It's really bad.” I turned on the TV just in time to watch the plane crash though the second tower, alone in my living room/with millions of other Americans. I pried myself from my screen several hours later and forced myself to go to Tower Records as a distraction. I bought the new CD by my favorite band from L.A., but I didn't even listen to it until the next day, on my way to campus to teach, when I was consciously refocusing. I had the car radio tuned to NPR in both directions, and when I got home, I resumed my solo vigil in front of the TV until my spouse came home and sat next to me, mouth also agape, face also red and tear-stained, also silent except for the occasional sigh or gasp.

— Amy Dawn Shinabarger, faculty, English and linguistics, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

I drove to New York for the weekend and left early in the morning on Sept. 11 to return to Michigan. I drove for several hours while listening to CDs in my car and didn't hear about the attack until I stopped for gas in Ohio. I was stunned when I heard reports of the event on the radio.

— David Anthony, graduate student

I was a member of a religious community of friars that was meeting for the first time with other nuns in formation on the Tuesday morning of Sept. 11, 2001, in Ossining, New York, 30 miles north of Manhattan. We were all deeply troubled at the events and the somber day of tragedy. Great loss is what I remember most vividly. The immediate emotional impact and the lingering effects remain with our society.

— Andrew White, MEd, PhD student in Spanish literature and culture

I had just started my senior year of high school. I'd met my husband in high school, and I remember the day before I got in trouble, ’cause I stayed out late with my then boyfriend, now husband. And so I was already kind of a little drowsy going into the day, and classes started at 7:20. So I wasn't really paying attention anyway and probably wasn't the best of students. But anyway, the day started pretty normal at school. We were shuffling from class to class, and then the loud speaker came on and said that an attack had happened in New York and that teachers needed to either turn on the radio or turn on the TV so that students could hear what was going on. And what would normally be a very loud and obnoxious day and teachers teaching and students being loud between classes became this very solemn and quiet moment where even when the bell rang, the hallways were silent and people — the only thing you could really hear was the sound of people crying and being upset. And then you would hear the sound of the moms talking about their children or their family members being inside and the heartbreak of knowing whether they were OK or not. And it just kind of sticks with you.

— Charrie Larkin, ASU staff, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

I remember being a freshman in high school and sitting in health class. The principal came across the PA system saying that a plane flew into the World Trade Center tower. We didn't know what to think because no one knew exactly what was happening. The next class was gym, and we found out that they were saying it was a terrorist attack so I went to the library and as I walked in, not five minutes later, the second plane hit the second tower. I remember watching both towers come down; the Pentagon being hit, the plane crashing in the middle of Pennsylvania. I also remember all the reports of what was going on and more planes that were supposed to be headed to the White House and other targets. Potential car bombs that were around the WTC towers. No one knew what to do. All after-school activities were canceled and everyone sat and watched the TVs all day. It was one of the most surreal days I've ever had.

— Will Bowin, ASU alumnus

People watched the news on TV in complete silence, in shock, like watching something absolutely unreal, and sharing an indescribable deep sorrow.

— Gabriela, PhD student

I remember how quiet and scary it was. Returning to my grandma's place after school, I found everyone was listening to the news. This was the sort of shock you would see in a movie.

— K, graduate student

I had the news live on NBC and was fixing my coffee here in Scottsdale. My husband was on a business trip in Milwaukee. Not knowing who or what was responsible for this tragedy, I immediately thought the banks might fail, and headed for a nearby ATM to obtain cash. As the day wore on, I went to St. Joseph's church to be with equally stunned people. I recall people being incredibly polite and courteous. That night was surreal, sitting on the patio watching the silent night sky, knowing our NYC neighbors were suffering so.

— Marilyn Slaven, Scottsdale, Arizona

I was in ninth grade, and the first plane hit between classes. I walked into my 9 a.m. civics class to an absolutely silent room with the only light emanating from a CRT in the classroom corner. It was a good class to be in as the teacher was able to talk us through it, and we witnessed the second plane crash live.

— Stephen Kelley, ASU alumnus

I was a junior in high school on Sept. 11, 2001. During my third-period health class, a fellow student returned to the room and announced the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. Our coach turned on the TV as we all watched in horror and just minutes later, we witnessed the second plane crash on live television. We watched the situation unfold with first responders descending on the scene. A live helicopter feed showed the souls above the inferno begging to be rescued. We watched as some made the ultimate decision to jump to their peril, and we watched survivors emerge from debris and the thick smoke clouds as the towers of the World Trade Center came crashing down.

In my fifth-period world history class in junior high, Coach had us all sit on the floor and meditate to the Enya song “Only Time.” President Bush was at a local elementary school that day, and local media outlets kept replaying the scene when the president was interrupted with the news of the attacks. That clip has been forever ingrained into my memory

— Brittany Sherman, undergraduate student, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Everything. I remember everything about that day. From waking up to seeing my usually stoic father in his pajamas on his knees in front of the television, overcome with disbelief. I remember my heart pounding as I rode my bike to eighth grade. I remember the band teacher turning on the television, saying there were rumors another plane was heading to the White House. It is the most memorable day of my entire childhood.

— Ilan Wurman, ASU faculty, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

I remember being in college in upstate New York and the confusion around if this was an attack on the state of New York or is this a national disaster? I remember feeling frozen with my roommates in our little house and crowded around the TV.

— Sarah Hameline, clinical assistant professor of music therapy, School of Music, Dance and Theatre

Most vividly — I remember the tragedy of lives ripped apart.

I did not watch TV during the day, so when I was dropping our children at school and proceeded to walk home, another parent mentioned, “You need to go home and turn on the TV; something tragic is happening in New York.” My husband was in Japan for business, so reaching out to him was difficult. I was shocked when I picked up our children at elementary school and learned that teachers had put the TV on in the classroom and watched it with them. They were too little to understand. I wished I had brought my children home so I could have discussed it with them and not have it on all day at school. The teacher was in shock — I understood that — but when I was at home I thought, “The teachers will teach lessons, school as usual, right?”

— anonymous, staff

Generation 9/11

I remember the confusion I had as a child. I did not understand what was going on and how something like that could happen. I was 11 and did not comprehend the impact and meaning behind what was happening. I did not think it was real, and once I realized that it was, confusion set in. How can someone do something like this? Who did this? Why did they do this? How?! No one was able to answer my questions and, as a child, left me with a hopeless feeling.

— Kari Barber, student

I was at my school in Flushing, New York, when we first learned about the news. I was in first grade and too little to understand what was going on. I remember that our teacher, Ms. Goldstein, was very stressed and quickly asked everyone to pack our bags and make a queue. We just had one class. I found it strange back then that almost everyone had gathered near the school bus stop to go home, as I thought everyone was called outside school only during fire drills. When I got home, I remember my mom, who was pregnant at that time, giving me a tight hug. She seemed a bit scared. But being a kid I was just happy about the fact that school was over and there was no homework. I remember my father coming home pretty late that day and my mom was almost in tears when he came inside the house. She had prayed all day for his safety. As I got older, I got to know about this strange day as 9/11 and the reason why my dad was late that day. He missed his usual train — the train on Line 1 that passed the station right below the World Trade Center.

— Nikita J., robotics and autonomous systems graduate student

I actually don't remember, but my parents made these home videos of me as a baby. At 1 year old I was just messing around, clueless of what was currently happening. You can see in the background, a broadcast of the attack during that same day.

— Luke, student

I was only 1 year old on the actual day, so I do not remember anything about seeing the news of 9/11. When I asked my father where I was in a discussion about 9/11, he said that he thinks my mother and I were still asleep together while he witnessed the crashes live on TV. I have only seen the unfolding political effects of 9/11, and I did not start paying attention to politics in general until I was 13, almost 14 years old.

Children have to know that this kind of thing can happen to them indiscriminately so that they can have a realistic sense of wariness about society and those around them.

— Samantha Stubbs, senior

We lived in Rochester, New York, at the time, and I remember my 12-year-old daughter walking through the door after school with three or four friends in tow. Their eyes were wide with apprehension and fear, for their school principal essentially told them that something awful had happened to our country that day but she wouldn't tell them what it was, and she demanded that teachers keep it to themselves. Throughout the day, students watched some of their classmates being picked up from school early by their frightened parents, which only exacerbated their anxiety. The friends who had walked home with my daughter were kids whose parents were still at work, and knowing that I was home before them was the likely assurance that they would get answers.

I had to explain to these seventh graders what transpired that day. In addition to feeling horrified, they were also angry at their principal who taunted them with news of a national tragedy but left them guessing as to what it was. Some of them thought our president had been assassinated, and others thought our country had been bombed with a nuclear weapon. Although they were “safe” living in upstate New York, they spent the day at school wondering if their own lives were in imminent danger, or if their loved ones were safe. This principal may have thought she was protecting students by shielding them from the details, but they were traumatized by the unknown.

Young people need to hear the truth. They do not need to be exposed to the gory details that surround it — I did not allow them to watch TV to see people jumping from the windows of the World Trade Center. It broke my heart that these 12-year-olds had to fathom such a life-changing tragedy, but shielding it from them entirely is not wise.

— Anne Buckley, ASU PhD student

I woke up as a 10-year-old expecting to find my mother making me and my siblings breakfast before school. Instead she was sitting on the couch, eyes fixed on the television with tears streaming down her face. I didn't understand until I looked at the television and saw the images. The twin towers were still burning, bodies were falling. In that moment, everything changed. I learned a new word that would reform my understanding of the world — terrorism. I went to school, and the news continued throughout the morning. The south tower collapsed. The north tower collapsed. The number of dead civilians, police, fire and emergency personnel was unknown, but it was more than anyone could bear.

— Ashley Adamowicz, graduate student

I remember learning about it in school, and feeling so detached from it. I was only 1 when it happened, but I grew up around people who were directly affected. It’s a teachable moment.

Growing up around a strong cultural tie to 9/11, I was taught that we should work to eradicate the fears of ignorant people because they are so clearly false.

— Liora, music therapy major

Standing together

That whole week I kept the TV on all night long, convinced we'd find some pocket in the rubble with hundreds, dozens, tens of people who managed to survive. More than once that week we had to walk down 20-plus flights of stairs at work because of bomb threats at nearby Maricopa County court buildings. We tried to joke about what a great workout it was for our quads and glutes. When planes started flying again, my office window looked onto their flight path. I had frequent nightmares about a plane wagging its wings and slamming into our building. I looked up old friends I'd lost touch with because I worried that they had been in New York; worried that they were lost. Idiot relatives repeated conspiracy theories at Thanksgiving, and verbal fights ensued. Family gatherings became things to brace myself for. Writing this now, I realize how much anxiety I had even though I was 3,000 miles away and nobody I loved died on 9/11.

— anonymous, faculty

A blanket of shock and somberness swept the nation. In the coming days, American flags became a hot commodity; our country stood united; we commended the heroes at Ground Zero who worked tirelessly for months sorting through the debris and rubble; we ached when it was announced another body had been found. We were the undivided United States of America. Many of my friends and classmates enlisted to join the fight against terrorism. I'm grateful every day for their bravery and sacrifice.

— Brittany Sherman, undergraduate student, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

What I also remember about 9/11 was that one's political identity, religious preference or color of skin didn't matter that day. It was perhaps the singular time in America during my childhood when the only colors that mattered were red, white, and blue. Our country came together in unity to demand justice against a tyrannical assault on the innocent victims. American flags were sold out, and patriotism won in spite of the death toll.

— Ashley Adamowicz, graduate student

One thing that I definitely remember was the unifying feeling after that day. We were Republicans or Democrats or Arizonans or Nebraskans or whatever on Sept. 10. That changed on Sept. 11. We were all Americans.

— Chris Fiscus, associate vice president, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

I think it made Americans more appreciative of each other and galvanized a spirit of working together to overcome adversity. That sense of “we're all in this together” has dissipated to near nonexistence today.

— Terry Grant, ASU staff, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Immediately after the attacks I remember how caring everyone was. It changed us. We really became united. It's a shame that we forget that we can be strong together and help each other in need.

— Ed Spyra, Morrison Institute for Public Policy

I think as a country we became more aware of our vulnerabilities but also became aware of our strengths. Sept. 11 not only changed us as members of our community but for some of us, it changed us personally. Shortly after 9/11, I felt like the country was full of patriotism. That unfortunately has changed in the last couple of years, and I sure hope to God that we don’t need another 9/11 to remind us of how great we can be as a united country.

— Jose Pelaez, ASU Online graduate (MA emergency management and homeland security)

Takeaways and teachable moments

It's been 20 years now, but that strange day and the events that followed (the massive 2003 Great Northeast Blackout) will always be engraved in our minds. Sept. 11 taught humanity many things. It affected the lives of millions of people whether they were directly, indirectly or not impacted by this event. But I believe humanity has risen and will always keep rising from the ashes to fight against the wrong and bring justice and harmony. Never again should there be such an event. We should continue to stay strong. Willpower and hope are the two biggest things that help in winning the toughest of battles. That strength and courage helped in fighting the outbreak of COVID-19 as well.

— Nikita J., robotics and autonomous systems graduate student

When a catastrophic event occurs, we seek answers. Sept. 11, 2001 introduced a new threat to the American people. A threat that was perhaps never imagined to cause devastation at such a magnitude. And while 9/11 may not have been the first terrorist attack on the U.S., it was damaging enough to ensure that we would do everything in our power to avoid another. We changed TSA security procedures, created the Patriot Act, and came together to develop new intel and strategies for sabotaging future terrorist attempts. Most of all, 9/11 reminded us that not all heroes are civil servants.

— Ashley Adamowicz, graduate student, graduate services assistant

Initially, 9/11 engendered a lot of sentiments of patriotism — many that would prove to be fleeting. But it momentarily united citizens of all stripes as they sought revenge against a common enemy. But in the long run, as with many crises, the significance has begun to slip from conscious awareness. Memories fade, and the return to relative normalcy reawakened long standing superficial differences.

— anonymous, ASU faculty

It polarized certain hate groups, particularly against Muslims and anybody who supports a free Palestinian state. It has raised uncomfortable yet necessary questions about who gets to define what terrorism is.

— Andrew White, PhD student in Spanish literature and culture

We realized we weren't impervious. The government also realized they could use fear to make political moves and “police actions” to suit their will — and some their pocketbooks.

— Stephen Kelley, recent ASU alumnus

Peoples' perceptions of Sept. 11 vary. Some have come to live with a level of uncertainty, while others have doubled their reliance on military and intelligence agencies to protect the homeland.

— David Anthony, ASU graduate student

The events of that day made us realize that no matter how much we might wish to be isolated, there will always be those who hate us and our way of life. No matter how our policies might change, there are those who have collective memories that last centuries, and they are not soon to forget past grievances, imagined or real. That day, and its aftermath, reminds us that no matter how much we may wish to be a unified globe, and no matter how multicultural, some cultures and people will always have different ideas about freedom and self-government.

— Ilan Wurman, ASU faculty, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

This experience opened the eyes of many who thought that the U.S. was an impenetrable fortress. The pain of lost loved ones may fade over time, but the memories will forever be etched in the minds and history books.

We have been able to learn from the tragic events of 9/11 through examining the events which led up to it. Poor communication between government agencies, lack of security in high-profile areas and flawed policy were the main factors that allowed this to take place. Although it was a catastrophe of its own kind in America, we were able to learn, improve counterterrorism operations and ultimately create a safer environment overall.

— Carmelo Waters, MPA emergency management student

Terrorist attacks have just taken on new forms. Today it happens with cyber weapons and digital thievery. We need to remember that spirit of working together to protect and care for each other, and move forward without the intolerance that plagues us today.

— Terry Grant, ASU staff, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

The mistakes made by the president following opened the door to the political horror show that we are witnessing today.

— Susan Cohen

America can never again sleep on our intelligence. Information regarding flight lessons and threats online were not treated with the urgency they deserved.

— Marilyn Slaven

We can never let our guard down. We must remain alert at all times, not just at airports, but in public places as well as our households. We never know what'll happen until it's too late.

— K, ASU graduate student

It made us aware that we do not live in a vacuum. It can be a dangerous world out there, and we must be diligent in protecting our nation, our families and ourselves.

— Robert Rauch, faculty associate, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

We were briefly united in suffering and concern and compassion for each other. But then it became all politics. I strongly disagreed with the wars that followed, and yet I find myself feeling ambivalent now as I watch the Taliban take back Afghanistan. I think of all the amazing veterans of those wars that I've met and wonder how they feel. The people who in 2003 insisted we would fight the haters “over there” so that we wouldn't have to fight them here — well, now at least some of those same Americans seem to want to have those fights here, violent fights, with other Americans. We had an opportunity to mature through all the difficult decisions that started on 9/11, but I'm not convinced that we have. Not yet.

Twenty years later, I don't know what all those deaths on 9/11 mean. What did they die for? What would they think of us now?

— anonymous, ASU faculty

How 9/11 changed us

I'm not sure 9/11 changed us in any way that can be easily measured or qualified. However, I think that the experience made us all cognizant of the fact that even if something doesn't matter in the grander scheme of the world, it may still be of tremendous, valid importance to ourselves, to our growth as human beings and to the development of how we all care for each other.

— Michael McVeigh, PhD student, graduate teaching assistant

I think it depends on what our life experiences had been on Sept. 11, 2001. Earlier generations experienced World War I and II, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the atomic bomb, the Cold War and countless acts of terrorism over the years. Sept. 11 had less effect on my parents than it did on me, and less effect on me than it did my daughter. There has always been evil in the world, and a shift in mentality might be more likely to occur in someone who has not yet been exposed to it.

— Anne Buckley, ASU PhD student

For a very short time I think it softened our humanity. And then an “us/them/revenge” narrative won out over getting to the root of where terrorism comes from. It also seemed to further entrench religious dogma in the United States and wrap it into politics.

— Maureen Roen, ASU staff, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

I think it changed us in different ways. I think we surprised ourselves by coming together in a time of need. Our country was one after the attacks. However, with such devastation, hatred of the enemy came and I believe that hatred was cast over a large group of innocent individuals who were “guilty by association,” and many of their lives also perished. I think the attacks brought a new kind of hatred, and I believe that has brought damaging effects on the U.S. people.

— Kari Barber, ASU student

We are an intensely anxious country now. Even more than before 9/11, we tend to be suspicious of people who are acting “differently” — if you see something, say something — and are triggered by differences of opinion. We accept drones and uncertainty about who's monitoring what on our phones. When I lived in D.C. before 9/11, I often took a bus across town that ran along Pennsylvania Avenue directly next to the White House. No more. The Sandra Day O'Connor federal courthouse here in Phoenix was first mocked because of all the glass in Phoenix, but structures quickly went up to protect it from attack. Before 9/11, I never would have contemplated a car being deliberately smashed into a courthouse or other building. Now my blood pressure goes up if someone in a public space walks away from their bag for a few seconds.

— anonymous, ASU faculty

It's made everyone more aware of their surroundings, especially at airports. People become more observant and cautious of each other.

— K, ASU graduate student

Frankly, the biggest change that I notice is in the airports. Many of the security measures that we see now were implemented as a result, e.g., TSA.

— Stephen Bishopp, faculty associate, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Many people in the U.S. thought the nation was safe from direct attack by foreign powers, but they had their minds changed in an instant.

— David Anthony, ASU graduate student

I feel we have become very skeptical of our government: “Trust but demand proof.”

— Marilyn Slaven

It made us realize how small the world is, and everything affects everyone.

— Anthony Wende, ASU faculty, Polytechnic School

It completely shifted our awareness of safety.

— Sarah Hameline, clinical assistant professor of music therapy, School of Music, Dance and Theatre

We no longer feel we are “safe.” We know we have to look out for ourselves and our neighbors; the government is limited in what it can do.

— anonymous, ASU staff

Sept. 11 has resulted in increased protection for airplane travelers — yes. But otherwise, all I have seen are the despicable side effects. Blood has been spilled for the sake of blood under the banner of a tragedy, rampant racism and Islamophobia has strengthened intensely, and a culture of fear and paranoia was produced according to sources from those old enough to remember the pre-9/11 U.S. social climate.

— Samantha Stubbs, senior undergraduate student

I think it led to irrational fear of Muslims and Arabs, generally. Sadly, too many people don't know Sikhs are from India; so, they have been needlessly persecuted. Likewise, a lot more people armed themselves, expecting an invasion, I suppose.

— Gail Yates, former staff at Thunderbird (now Thunderbird School of Global Management)

As a society, we view airports very differently now. Not to mention the blatant Islamophobia. It’s a shame, because Islam is not a religion of hijacking planes, and Muslim individuals are not all extremists who wish to cause harm to their fellow Americans.

— Liora, music therapy major

Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those moments in history that marked all the events that took place in later years — the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, the Azores summit, the terrorist attacks years later in Madrid Central Station Atocha (2004), London (2005) or Bataclan club in Paris (2015). This event changed the government in my home country of Spain from conservatives to social democrats. It created the caliphate state of ISIS and even the uprising of far right and other extremist movements that we are seeing nowadays around the world. All of these events are a result of 9/11.

— Kiké Martin-Bonneville, ASU staff, School of International Letters and Cultures

It changed the idea that the U.S. was defended best by its oceans. It changed air travel and safety protocols — non-ticketed passengers no longer allowed at gates, etc. It changed how we look at terrorism and educated the world how terrorists’ “cells” work: the sophisticated network and planning to pull off such an attack. It united us for months right after. Patriotism has never been as high since — again, united. No political parties — just united. The streets across America had signs posted, “United We Stand.”

— Marcus Denetdale, ASU staff and PhD student

It changed a lot of American lives, meaning that we all must love and look out for each other as you never know what can happen. We were all one nation, as we all should be. Nowadays we see more of us more divided over idiotic political situations.

The lives that were taken during the occurrence of 9/11 were horrifying. We must take advantage now to be grateful of how supportive we are for one another. Many countries from 9/11 and today wish more harm and deaths to all Americans. It matters today that we remain grateful for the freedom and power we have in this country until it somehow is ruined or costs more lives.

— Luke, ASU student

I never watched the videos of people falling out of the windows — still haven't. I was glad when (Osama) bin Laden was neutralized, but I didn't jump up and down and cheer. The feeling was more like after a biopsy — grim relief, but too soon to celebrate. I named a dog after Seymour Hersh for his stories about the prisons in Baghdad. I didn't cry at the Ground Zero memorial, but I did cry at an exhibit at a since-closed journalism museum in Washington, D.C. The exhibit got to me because it played the audio and I felt like I was right back there on Sept. 11, 2001, walking the dogs, hearing the reporters struggle with their emotions. I went back to that one hour around dawn when I could still hope these were just small planes, unfortunate accidents.

— anonymous, ASU faculty

Why 9/11 still matters

Sept. 11, 2001 is part of our history. To dismiss it as merely an event that happened 20 years ago would be to dismiss the sacrifice, bravery, courage and selfless acts of all those that lost their life and loved ones on that day. It matters because as long as we remember, we win against all those that would attempt to break the American spirit of unity, patriotism and freedom.

— Ashley Adamowicz, graduate student, graduate services assistant

Sept. 11 will always matter because of the lives that were lost and the heroes who stepped in to help. They will never be forgotten, and for that, 9/11 will always matter. Every single person who was alive during the attacks will always remember that day. They will always remember the impact and how unbelievable it was. The pure devastation that was brought, and now the divide that it brought when it comes to conspiracy theories and government involvement. It matters more than ever to educate the younger generations of the facts and real stories involved in order to ensure something like 9/11 does not happen again.

— Kari Barber, ASU student

Sept. 11 matters now because it was a watershed moment in the history of all those who were alive when it happened. It is a historic moment like that of the Kennedy assassination, the Challenger explosion and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection: a tragic moment that defines us as Americans, unites us in our recollections of the traumas that we endured and serves as a common point of reference in all of our lives.

— Michael McVeigh, ASU PhD student

It matters because it's important to remember history in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We need to remember the lives lost that day. But it also showed the vulnerability of every country and the consequences that certain actions could lead us to.

— Kiké Martin-Bonneville, ASU staff, School of International Letters and Cultures

It affects everything. Distribution of power among branches of government — so much power and yet so little leadership. Assistance for veterans. Tolerance for foreign wars. Would we have done more in Syria if we weren't exhausted by Iraq and Afghanistan? Intelligence and counterintelligence among people who are likely to attack us again. Our trust that our leaders are telling us the truth — so many conspiracy theories grew out of 9/11. Our ability to unite and solve problems, to even perceive solutions that don't involve violence. Our rhetoric is all about attacks. Why in the world are we fighting about vaccines? Sometimes I think social scientists could trace that back to 9/11 and its aftermath.

I think back to a big family gathering the weekend before 9/11. We were celebrating my grandmother's birthday — so innocent then. Not perfect, but more optimistic. Sometimes I look back on that time as analogous to the summer of 1914. That was Europe's last summer; 2001 was America's last summer.

— anonymous, ASU faculty

Events so powerful will always matter to our moving forward. Education is the key.

— Ed Spyra, Morrison Institute for Public Policy

We should never forget the events and what the causes were. We should certainly strive to be sure it never has to happen again.

— Don Doerres, retired engineer from the ASU Mars Space Flight Facility

We're at a time when on so many fronts it's imperative that we recognize our common humanity and our interconnectedness and stop thinking that problems can be solved within arbitrary geographic lines. The Earth is really a very small community.

— Maureen Roen, ASU staff, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

In the midst of living in a global community, where tragedy in one place spills over to be shared by the world, we are reminded that we must cooperate and understand other cultures and perspectives if we want to survive and prosper.

— Deborah Losse, ASU professor emerita (former chair of languages and literatures, now the School of International Letters and Cultures)

The lingering effects of the weapons of mass destruction that were never discovered, and the concept of preemptive warfare are morally questionable. I will never forget an interview in which Ann Coulter ridiculed the widows … of the attacks as greedy complainers, whining to the government. It matters for so many reasons, from the media coverage of the Pentagon that was swiftly curtailed and not publicized, to the efforts to continue to honor those whose lives were lost and forever changed. It matters to the ongoing mental, emotional and physical health of the first responders.

— Andrew White, PhD student in Spanish literature and culture

It's urgent to work on values — respect to diversity, tolerance, understanding and acceptance — with young generations at home, at schools, so they don't continue repeating insane behaviors.

— Gabriela, ASU PhD student

It should remind us of how we stood together as a nation proud.

— Stephen Kelley, recent ASU alumnus

Sept. 11 is a yearly reminder to us that we still have people out there that are trying to undermine our democracy and our way of life. It is important that we never let our guard down and that we continue to work together to protect our homeland, without forgetting our values.

— Jose Pelaez, ASU Online graduate (MA emergency management and homeland security)

Remembering those who died and those who rushed to save them helps us remember the daily sacrifice first responders often make.

— anonymous

The tragedy of 9/11 reminds us to come together as a nation, to be each other's brother and sister, and to rise from the ashes. We are the United States of America — we stand indivisible. We will never forget.

— Brittany Sherman, undergraduate student, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Sept. 11 remains an important reminder that the United States is not invincible, that evil exists and that American foreign policy has real consequences. It reminds us that diplomacy and the American instruments of national power are not merely the concern of those in D.C. It reminds us that our alliances matter.

As the 20th anniversary of the cowardly attacks arrives, we should reexamine America's place in the world and our own role as citizens. As citizens, we should ask whether, and to what extent, hostile regimes are doing to sow chaos, discord and division — further distracting us from their own attempts to increase malign influence. We should ask whether those nations, or their ilk, have been directly or indirectly involved in fomenting violence and unrest in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We should ask whether and to what extent the militarization of United States foreign policy is healthy — much less sustainable — given the federal debt and the consequences in terms of lives and resources expended. We should ask whether we are paying enough attention to issues that matter, rather than becoming distracted with divisive rhetoric.

— anonymous, ASU faculty

Yes, 9/11 does matter now. We are so divided — more than ever, it seems. We learn from our past and hope we can avoid devastation, tyranny and intolerance of religion or creed. It matters so that we may continue to learn about each other's beliefs, values and religion. Not to terrorize each other to conform, but either tolerant or acceptance in harmony.

— Marcus Denetdale, ASU staff and PhD student

Sept. 11 matters because lives matter. The same as lives lost from COVID-19 matter. The same as Black Lives Matter. It matters that we are kind to each other, that we try to understand other points of view, that we be respectful and helpful to others.

— anonymous, ASU staff

It is a reminder to recognize that our ways and beliefs are unique and are not right for all people, countries and governments.

— Gail Yates, former staff at Thunderbird (now the Thunderbird School of Global Management)

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Top photo by Magnus Olsson/ 

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ASU's Cronkite School to host international scholars, students for SUSI programs

This summer, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is hosting two Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) programs for international media…

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ASU Law launches AI focus across multiple degree programs

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University — ranked the nation’s most innovative university since U.S. News and World Report created the category in 2015 — has embraced…

People seated at a conference table smiling.

Business journalists continue to earn premium salaries; 70% report salary increases

Business journalists continue to earn an impressive premium over their general-news peers, while demographic data indicate a strong cohort of female business journalists is making its way up the…