Brian Creech was in his dorm room on Sept. 11, 2001, when two Boeing 767 airplanes flew into the north and south towers of New York City’s World Trade Center.
The mother of Braxton Winston, Creech’s neighbor, was working at the World Trade Center when it happened, while Creech and Winston were hundreds of miles away at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina.
“We spent the whole day anxiously searching for her, trying to reach out to her, waiting for things to calm down,” Creech said. “We were glued to CNN and NBC that day.”
Fortunately, Winston’s mom survived that day.
Creech, an assistant journalism professor, shared his experience from 9/11 at “Remembering September 11, 2001,” a panel discussion at Annenberg Hall on Tuesday. Journalism professor Lori Tharps and Journalism Department Chair David Mindich also participated in the panel, which took place on the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon and the crash landing of United Airlines Flight 93 in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Tharps was living in Brooklyn, New York, at the time of the attacks.
“All of a sudden, everything was gone,” she said. “That was literally the end of the life I knew, and the beginning of when I looked at the entire world differently.”
At the panel, Mindich read “Essence of New York Endures after the Attacks,” an op-ed he wrote after the attacks for the Burlington Free Press, a news organization in Burlington, Vermont.
“The essence of New York is an experiment in getting along with others, regardless of race, creed or color,” the piece reads.
Students who attended the discussion also shared their experiences from 9/11.
Brittany Valentine, a 26-year-old senior journalism major, said the resulting racism from the terror attacks is what stayed with her the most.
“And it’s not because I don’t think that what happened was awful and important,” she added.
Senior communications and theater major Sarah Graham was only 4 years old when 9/11 happened and doesn’t remember much from that day.
“I feel like Americans are very lucky to be able to come back here in this university and talk about it,” she said. “We were able to grasp the gravity of this situation that happened here in America, and we were able to grow from it.”
Panelists and audience members also discussed the effects 9/11 had on national security, patriotism and discrimination. Journalism professor Christopher Harper joined in on the discussion.
“There’s also some really bad people out there who are still trying to do some really bad things to us,” Harper said. “Everything that has been said here has value, but there’s a reason why we’re much safer than what we were on 9/11.”
He added there’s now greater security in the United States thanks to a more effective military presence, which is important for addressing remaining threats like the terrorist group ISIS.
Mindich agreed the United States has grown since the attack.
“I think that in some ways though, we’ve also shrunk from it,” Mindich said.
Mindich taught at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, from 1996 to 2017. After 9/11, he said he observed a significant decrease in the percentage of Muslim and Arab students attending the school.
“I worry that we’ve become, as a country, less of a welcoming destination,” he added.
On the other hand, Tharps said she felt patriotism was forced on everyone after the attacks.
“It became [that] if you weren’t patriotic, you were on the wrong side,” she added. “For every person you knew [that was] a victim of the actual attacks, there was somebody who was a victim of a hate crime.”
While a 9/11 commemoration takes place on Main Campus every year, Creech said this year’s gathering was especially important because the student body is getting younger.
“It’s really fascinating to speak to [this] group today, because you all are perhaps the first group of citizens that don’t have active memory of the day,” he said.