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The National September 11 Memorial

Commemorating the Events of 9/11 After 15 Years

Fifteen years ago, America shook when two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Centers in New York, a third plane hit the Pentagon in Virginia, and a fourth plane, commandeered and routed to Washington, D.C., crashed in Pennsylvania.

Many Americans watched the events unfold on their television sets. Many were personally and emotionally impacted by the tragedy. Several members of the LCU faculty and staff shared their 9/11 stories in commemoration of the fifteenth year since the attacks:

Dr. Susan Blassingame, Dean of the Hancock College of Liberal Arts and Education

The Freedom Tower pictured from the street below in November 2014

I will always remember 9/11/2001 vividly. I had been diagnosed with a brain aneurysm in late April of 2001 and had a tricky surgical procedure to repair the aneurysm, which was successful but caused me to have debilitating headaches for months afterward.

On that day, I was home in bed, propped up with ice packs around my head and neck. I had the television on for white noise, and when I heard the words, “a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center,” I turned up the volume and opened my eyes to see the picture. I called a friend who had toured the WTC with me on a vacation trip the year before to tell her what had happened.

As we talked, I saw the second plane strike and the big ball of flame come through the other side. I told her a second plane had hit and something was terribly wrong. She was in her office, and I could hear people in her office exclaiming. We both said, “I’m hanging up,” and I continued to watch with horror.

I remember my phone ringing . . . my folks calling, my sister calling, my goddaughters, who were students at LCU. As I think back now, I remember how quiet everything seemed to get in the days following. Almost all the television stations went off the air; regular programming seemed obscene with what had happened. I remember watching the news and seeing the scene over and over. And I remember the news stations saying they had decided to quit showing the scene of the plane hitting.

A few days later, David Letterman was one of the first shows that came back on the air. I can’t remember his exact words, but I remember thinking how comforting they were and how appropriate. Isn’t that funny? A comedian talking seriously and thoughtfully helped the nation start to heal? And I remember thinking about all the prayers I and many others had lifted up in the minutes, hours, and days following.

I wasn’t in chapel that day, but I heard many talk about Dr. Jones and how his words helped comfort the audience. When I got to school later that day, as I walked around campus, I saw pockets of people hugging each other and praying together. Even as I write this, I remember that prayer was what got me through that whole experience, and I know I’m not the only one.

Dr. Andy Young, Professor of Psychology and Author of "Fight or Flight: Negotiating Crisis on the Front Line"

The NYC skyline, including the Freedom Tower, in March 2016

On the morning of September 11th, 2001 my wife already had the television on when the news broke of the first airplane flying into the first World Trade Center tower. She came and got me and we stood in silence as we both tried to make sense of what we were seeing.

One of my first thoughts was about estimating how many people could be in that building and were trying to escape the flames. 10,000 people? And then my thoughts turned to those who were trapped in the flames and in the floors above.

As we watched what was probably an accident, the second plane flew right into the second tower and almost came out the other side. This was devastating to watch. And this was obviously no accident. What was going on? And then I thought, we could be watching upwards of 20,000 people die if they are not able to get everyone out of the building. How long would it take to evacuate everyone? What an overwhelming task.

We continued to stand in silent awe when we were hit yet again with another devastating sight. We watched the calamity of an entire building crumbling to the ground. How many people are in there? What about the people on the ground? When will this end? The sheer magnitude of what we were witnessing was hard to digest.

I remember driving to work at LCU afterwards and seeing lines of cars at the gas pumps. Fear was everywhere. I also remember thinking about how the whole nation could be traumatized by these events; even the students in my classes.

On September 13th, me and a few other professors handed out a quick assessment to a number of students to see if they had the symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder (similar to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). A few days later I had the results, and a majority of the students surveyed were symptomatic just from watching these events on the television.

The whole nation seemed rocked to its core, fearful, and desperate for answers and for safety. Watching so many people suffer so dreadfully, seeing the crushed and ashen fire trucks, thinking of those people in the planes, at the Pentagon, and fighting those we now knew had hijacked a plane and subsequently flew it into the ground . . . it was all so much to assimilate and so easily created fear and confusion, even 2,000 miles away in Lubbock, Texas.

There is really no way to convey what it was like to watch this unfold on the television with no real point of reference that would help make sense of the utter destruction and death we all were seeing. People likened it to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, yet that did not seem to capture what we were now facing.

Renee Rhodes, Web Journalist and Social Media Manager

The Freedom Tower in November 2014

Today, we commemorate the loss of life on 9/11 fifteen years ago. We honor the heroes who served that day and those who have served every day since. Today, we humbly remember the cost of freedom.

None of us really realized what was going on at first. I was in third grade at the time, and each classroom was outfitted with a TV with basic cable. My teacher got a call that something was happening on the news. She turned on the corner television before she knew what was going on. My entire class watched the towers smoking on the screen, not comprehending what that truly meant.

And the impact didn't sink in before I went home. The day passed in a cloud of confusion. My teacher shut off the television before the towers collapsed, but my parents had the news on when we got home. We sat for a while and watched the replays before they packed us up to go to dinner. We went to McDonalds for dinner and got the hot fudge sundaes to go with our meals. My brother and I still weren't quite sure what merited the special treat. When we got the ice cream, they started "the talk" of the evening.

They explained the true weight of the attacks to us before it really sank in. We'd dealt with death in the family before, but never anything on such a massive scale. Dad talked about the importance of clinging to Christ when we feel helpless, remembering that our hope is eternal, and we wouldn't be surrounded by such devastation in heaven. He talked about the power of prayer and reminded us that Christ overcomes death. It was a very solemn evening, but my dad's spiritual wisdom stuck with me.

When I participated in the LCU Washington program two years ago, a few friends and I traveled to New York for a weekend in November. Visiting the 9/11 Museum, which had just opened a few months prior, was one of our top priorities. Even though we'd all been living in D.C. for the semester, we agreed that the 9/11 memorial was the most impactful we visited.

We watched middle school kids pass by on a tour, and had the sudden realization that they hadn't been alive during the attacks. And Facebook reminded me recently that high school freshmen are learning about 9/11 this year as a historical event from before they were born. It's amazing to think so much time has passed, that now we're so distanced from an event that affected so many. Now, when we look back and remember the lives that were lost, saved, and forever changed on September 11, 2001, we can also remember stories of healing and hope and unity... and freedom.