What was it like to be in college on 9/11/2001?
September 26, 2013 3:11 PM   Subscribe

What was it like to live on campus at a residential U.S. college on Sept. 11, 2001? How and when did news spread about the attacks? How did students around you respond? Did people flood outside, gather in small groups indoors, congregate at television sets? Did professors cancel class, or set rigid attendance requirements? I'm interested in generalities as well specifics. What was the mood like on that day and immediately afterward? How did the pulse and the life of the campus alter that day? Especially interested in colleges and universities NOT in communities that were directly attacked.
posted by croutonsupafreak to Society & Culture (102 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I went to college in hoboken, nj. Classes were cancelled(i think for several days). People were stuck in manhattan because mass transit was shut down. Friends i knew had to walk 10s of miles across the GW? bridge to get between NJ & NYC. I saw the towers fall, it was very somber. I was woken up by somebody who heard the news from the howard stern show. Nobody knew what was going on.

I took pictures which i shared on IRC, and apparently some of them got published in a Scandinavian newspaper, because there was a lack of reliable sources at the time.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:14 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was a freshman in the dorms at Michigan State University on 9/11.

I had a 10am class, and typical of my freshman year, I had rolled out of bed and straight to class without turning on a TV. I had no idea what was going on, and apparently the professor didn't either because he still held class. I remember there being a distinct uneasy tension in the room, which I definitely noticed and thought was weird but had no context for.

After class, I went to the dorm cafeteria and all the lights were off and everybody was crowded around the TVs, including all of the normal cafeteria stuff. The entire cafeteria was basically shut down. All classes were suspended for the afternoon.

Everybody was, not panicked exactly, but shocked and they had no idea what to do. I milled around for a while, alternating between the dorms and the public areas on my floor. There was a suggestion that blood would be needed for the victims, so a lot of people, myself included, took the bus down to the Red Cross which wasn't too far from campus and donated blood. I believe classes were canceled the next day as well, and the university had special forums on the attack and crisis counselors for anybody who wanted to attend.
posted by zug at 3:17 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: University of Michigan cancelled classes. I don't remember what time of day the cancellation was announced or whether it lasted more than one day. I was in grad school at the time so I wasn't as aware of the class schedules; grad students hung around the office talking over the news for a while, but mostly went home rather than staying on campus. Granted, that's not exactly an on-campus residential college observation.
posted by aimedwander at 3:20 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was not in college but I was attending a boarding high school (in New Hampshire). I remember walking into one of the buildings to get to my Humanities class, and all these people were sitting in on the stairs watching news on TV. It was one of those TVs they used to wheel out on the carts. I was late to class so I was picking my way down the stairs when I realized my teacher and classmates were among the stairs people, so I sat down to see what they were watching. I think at that point both towers had been hit, but neither one had fallen down. There was lots of consternation and concern, gasps and tears when the tower fell down.

When the first tower fell down, and subsequently the second one, everyone's attitude changed to more panicked, especially in light of the reports about the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in PA.

Classes were canceled and we were all summoned to the school's chapel (where we otherwise met every morning) and the rector spoke to us, and probably made us do a prayer, at the time some of the reports were inaccurate so everyone was worried their home city was next. Everyone was very upset and alarmed, especially kids whose parents worked in Manhattan or were from NYC. The phone lines were jammed for cell phones, so everyone was extra panicky.

We had NY Times delivery in the dorms every day and the next day everyone was fighting over the intact copies, because they were so evidently already of historical significance.
posted by Aubergine at 3:21 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was at University of Hawaii Manoa. No clear reaction among the student population that day that I could see. No classes were cancelled and none of my profs even mentioned what happened.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:23 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: In Florida. I was at law school on the campus of a residential university, although I lived off-campus. The governor shut down most of state government effective noon that day, and as part of that, the university chancellor shut down the state university system on the same schedule.

I heard the report of the first plane hitting while driving to school. In my mind, I imagined a small Cessna type of plane. When I got into the school building, everyone was watching the towers billowing smoke.

I don't think we had much of a sense of what was going on at the time. The first tower had collapsed about a half hour before a class I had, and the second one came down while it was in session. A student reported this fact to the professor during class and the prof waved it off as not being a big deal. One student left the class because he said he had family affected, presumably who worked in or near the WTC. After that class, I was passing time between classes when the announcement came that the university system had been closed until further notice, so I went home and watched the news the rest of the day.

We were all back at school the next day.
posted by Tanizaki at 3:26 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was attending Rutgers.

We saw the smoke coming from the city, 40 miles away. Classes were canceled that week, but no one was partying. It was extremely sad and somber.

We opened the dorms, etc. to any workers or those displaced. We had water tanks come in and we were used as a standby base.

People were buying newspapers like crazy and hugging everyone.

It was beautiful weather, but such a horrible time and emotional sadness.
posted by floweredfish at 3:27 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was at Emory University in Atlanta at the time. We had TVs in the student center running on the news most of the time, so I happened to see the early reports start to come in when I was heading to a 9:45 class. It was really only a handful of students watching when I walked up. I was actually about to keep walking to class. It didn't really look that bad at first, just a fire in the towers, but then the Pentagon plane hit. After that, they set up a big screen in the center and everyone crowded around. Classes were cancelled, and people mostly spent the day either watching in the center or in their rooms, or trying to reach home if they were from the NY area.

I think classes were cancelled for a couple days after that, but otherwise things mostly got back to normal relatively quickly.
posted by tau_ceti at 3:28 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I lived off campus while attending a flight school (Embry Riddle Aeronautical University). Classes were not cancelled, but because of the full ground stop any flight students were required to land immediately. Some were stranded for weeks across Florida. The student body was asked to not talk to any press during the day because of the rumors spreading that we had trained one of the terrorists (we hadn't, one if the United 93 pilots was an alumni). We couldn't have planes in the air for weeks. It was a weird experience, to say the least. I was 20 years old.
posted by picklesthezombie at 3:29 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Not in the US, but Australia at the Australian National University in first year. We all felt deeply saddened, especially the lecturer who was fresh from living in New York. So we went down the pub and sat in the spring sun and were quiet and complentative, and took a moment to talk about what we were grateful for in our lives.

(Edit: for clarity we were all of legal drinking not being in the US and all.)
posted by jujulalia at 3:32 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was a freshman at Boston University. My communications professor at my 9am class started class with a slide that said "Twin Towers Hit By Plane.....Terrorism Suspected". He then made no effort to elaborate and conducted class as usual. There were many students from the New York area, some left class to check on family members who worked in and around the Twin Towers. Most didn't have smartphones at the time and there wasn't wifi in the classroom, so we got no more information until class let out. Boston University did not cancel any classes that week. Mood was definitely somber, a little panicked as there was a lot of speculation that other metropolitan areas would be targeted next.
posted by halfsorry at 3:35 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: Classes were not cancelled in London, Ontario, Canada but attendance was a bit down that day and no one seemed surprised or off-put when I staggered into class ten minutes late looking a bit haunted. I'd just seen a couple thousand people die while I watched and that did not seem to need explaining.

How did students around you respond?

My recollection gathered around the TV with my roommates is that we were in disbelief and mildly hysterical. As the Onion put it, life had turned into a bad Jerry Bruckheimer movie and I for one was not dealing well with the surreality.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:35 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: University of Missouri. The planes hit while I was in class. After leaving class, I walked by the open door of a staff lounge. A TV was on. A girl in front of me stopped in her tracks and gasped while looking at the TV. I thought to my self "whatever" and kept going without even glancing at the TV as I had to hurry to make it to my next class. At the beginning of that class, the prof muttered something about terrorists and I thought he was just being a bit unhinged because he was a bit strange sometimes. Only after that class did I realize what was going on when I walked into the student union which had projectors playing CNN all over the place. No classes were cancelled, but the class I had later that day only had a couple people in it.
posted by zsazsa at 3:36 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was a freshman in a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts. I went to my 8am class, returned to my dorm, turned on the TV and saw the news. That was before the second plane hit so no one knew yet whether it was an accident or an attack. I called my mother at work in Boston and told her (she hadn't heard). For the next few hours, everyone in the dorm had the doors open and their TVs on. Open doors were common in the evenings for socialization, but doors tended to be closed all day while people went to class or did work. People walked back and forth between rooms, trading stories about who they knew in NY and whether they were safe or still hadn't made contact. There was a hushed, anxious, foreboding feeling. Since my college had a lot of NYers, there were many teary hugs. People sat together on beds and watched the news in shock.

For the first few hours, new information was flying quickly. The internet was a thing, but wasn't anything like it was now, so all news came from the TV or calls/AIM conversations with friends. It felt like every new segment of TV revealed new details. A second tower. A plane down in a field. The first tower's collapse. Trying to evacuate. The second tower's collapse. Shots of people covered in dirt and soot and blood staggering down the street. Info that the downed plane had been heading to the Pentagon. Speculation about more attacks. Speculation about the White House as a target. More shots of the chaos in NY. Everyone was in a state of heightened alert, horror, and shock, but it also felt really numb and quiet too. There was nothing we could do but sit and watch these horrible things happen in another state.

Classes might have been cancelled for the rest of that day, but I'm not even sure of that. I know I didn't go to anymore classes that day but I'm not sure if it's because they were officially cancelled or because I skipped so that I could stay by the TV/phone. It was a catholic college, so there was a candlelit mass that night. Pretty much the whole campus went. It was actually the only time in my 4 years there that I stepped foot into the chapel. The dean and most of the professors were there. There was lots of praying, silence, tears, and talking.

The next day, professors opened each class by acknowledging what had happened and opened the floor for students to talk for 10-15 minutes. Classes were held as scheduled. Our normal routines were followed. Eventually, things returned to normal.
posted by Nickel at 3:38 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was at Duke; a lot of people found out about it in 9 a.m. classes. 10 a.m. classes were sparsely attended as people clustered around TVs (I was in a cafeteria at that point); classes were officially cancelled for the rest of the day by 11 a.m. or noon, I don't really remember, nobody was in class by then. Teachers in our 9 a.m. classes were jumpy (the first hit was at 8:46 a.m. and a few people had seen it on a TV in a lounge area that was tuned to morning shows, but it wasn't at all clear what was going on as we went into our 9 a.m. classes).

There were clusters of people in 4s and 5s outside the buildings because cell phone coverage in buildings was still pretty terrible, and not everyone carried a cell phone, and because Duke draws a lot of students from NYC and NJ, a LOT of people were trying to call home, and everyone with a cell phone was lending it around. (Minutes were a lot more expensive then, and there were still local and national cell calling plans, so people were potentially racking up a lot of charges on your personal cell phone; people were being very generous with their cells.)

My most vivid memories of the morning are the clusters of students standing outside the buildings with one finger in an ear to block the noise and the phone on the other ear, and that when I drove home later (I did not live on campus), the roads were ABSOLUTELY EMPTY. Eerily so for a bright sunny day. I lived in a flight path for RDU and it was SO QUIET between the empty roads and the airplanes all being grounded. It was such a bright, sunny, beautiful day, and there was hardly any sound at all. Nobody was outside, nobody was going anywhere.

We still had dial-up internet at our apartment, and my roommate's BFF was a flight attendant for United who routinely flew one of the routes, so I remember we fought all day about using the internet because I was waiting for an e-mail from a family member in NYC (who had a meeting in the WTC that day) and she was waiting for a phone call from her BFF. (Both of our loved ones were fine, but one of the girls I lent my phone to that morning, her mother died in the attack.)

It's strange to think how different the technology was, just that recently.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:38 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was a commuter student on 9/11. Woke up and started my normal routine. I still lived at home. My mother was watching the news and she says "The Twin Towers are on fire!" She says she hopes the building doesn't collapse. I tell her they probably won't. I then found out it was a plane hitting the building from the news, and saw the second plane hit on TV. Then I found out about the other hijacked plane that was still in the air before I got to class. (I think it was the one that crashed in the woods in Pennsylvania, or something?) I saw at least one tower collapse before I left for class, maybe both.

That day my stepfather was working at the Jakob Javitz Federal Building in New York. He called and told us they were evacuating everyone and he was alright and that he was going to walk to his mother's house. Later he told us that he was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on the way to his mother's house when he saw the towers collapse.

I figured I should go to class anyway just in case it wasn't cancelled. The college was pretty dead and empty and anyone who was actually there was just kind of quiet and shocked or milling about. I had an Eastern Philosophy class and the professor was one of the few that didn't cancel class. I don't think I paid much attention because I was too busy wondering what was going to happen with that last plane in the air. I don't even remember the class that well. The professor gave a lecture and didn't interact much with the class, which is how that class always went. I don't think I even spoke to anyone while I was there except maybe for a brief "Can you believe he didn't cancel the class?" interaction with another student.

Spent the rest of the day watching the planes crash over and over on the news when I got home.
posted by Modus Pwnens at 3:38 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: Did people flood outside, gather in small groups indoors, congregate at television sets? Did professors cancel class, or set rigid attendance requirements?

UNC (Colorado) here. The music tech. guys wired up TVs in the a few of the hallways and had them on broadcast news, then one of my smaller (10 or 12 people) classes was canceled so that we all could go and donate blood, there were a couple people who couldn't donate, and they drove us all down.

The next day for Music History, the prof. got up and said "Why didn't I cancel class? How can we go forward after this? The only I answer I have is that we must go go forward, if we don't we've let them take away something important from us."
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:38 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was a freshman at Emory University in Atlanta in 2001, and found out about the first plane hitting while walking back from showering (my first class on Tuesday was at 10AM). I remember standing in the dorm room of someone I didn't know, in a towel, with a dozen other freshmen I didn't know, watching a tiny TV. We watched plane 2 crash, then I hightailed it to my room, where I had internet and phone. (And clothes.)

Classes were cancelled by noon, but neither I nor anyone else who'd watched plane 2 crash even bothered. Instead, with internet news sites slammed even on our T1 lines and no TV in my room, I went to the student center, where someone had had the good sense to pull out a projector and a screen. About a hundred folks were sitting on the floor watching footage of tower one collapsing. More gathered.

Emory, which is right next to the CDC in Atlanta, closed off the entire campus at both ends of Clifton Road by around the time the Pentagon plane hit, and rumors were flying. Parents - many of whom, like mine, had just convinced themselves that their barely grown teenagers were going to be fine on their own - were trying to get in touch with all of us, even though cell lines were pretty jammed all day. Similarly, a lot of Emory students hail from NY & NJ. There were rumors about a freshman student whose dad worked in one of the towers but had decided to take the day off to go golfing instead. IM worked fine, but without smartphones, we had to be around a computer to use it. Since it was still back in the day of the AIM away message, lots of people had those up talking about whether they were alright/where they were/shock in response to the attacks.

Candelight vigil on campus that night. No class the following day. I can't remember what we talked about in the days and weeks that followed, but I remember my father being overprotective remotely in weird ways - microwaving his mail in hopes of killing anthrax spores, attempting to insist that my (brand new) boyfriend always keep at least half a tank of gas in the car. There were a few rumors about the CDC's potential as a target - at the time, you could walk or drive right up to their buildings, but in the years that followed, they put up ugly concrete barriers and fencing.

Beyond that, I mostly remember lying on the quad the day after. It was so quiet, and the sky was so blue and clear, and not a plane in sight.
posted by deludingmyself at 3:45 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was a Head Resident overseeing a freshmen dorm just outside Boston. I was at my mechanic when the attack happened - I saw it on the TV in the waiting room, when Aaron Brown on CNN broke in, and everyone still thought it was a little Cessna.

We cancelled classes for a day or two. There were counselors available to students, and the hall staff checked up on people constantly. I think there was a memorial event that night.

One of the kids in my building couldn't get in touch with his dad, who worked in one of the towers. All the other guys on the floor kept floating in and out of his room all day, making sure he was okay, never leaving him alone. His dad finally called that afternoon. After 30+ years of working without taking lunch, he decided that day that he was going to want something, and decided to go out early and grab food to have at his desk before things got busy in the office. He walked out of the building right as the first plan hit his office.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:45 PM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I worked at a library at MIT at the time. It was a really weird day -- I don't recall classes being cancelled, although I know that at least one of the taller buildings on campus was evacuated -- my boss was in a meeting there, and came back to work all shaken up. (I think that attendance for classes that day, and for at least a couple of days afterward, was relaxed a bit.) I remember things seemed weirdly normal on campus for a few hours -- students coming in to do work, and chatting with each other, and all that, like nothing was going on.

The Sloan School building next door to my job had a big TV monitor in the lobby, and when I walked through at lunchtime, the news was on and a bunch of people were clustered around watching the coverage. Then the next day there was a big blood drive, and there were vigils and discussion groups and such.

I was also in grad school for library science at the time, and remember being really pissed off that the professor of the class I was taking wasn't relaxing her strict attendance policy at all -- I had class on September 12th, and emailed to let her know that I wouldn't be there -- I was going to try to give blood and then go to a vigil that night instead. She told me off for missing class without a valid excuse.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:50 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was attending University of Arizona, in Tucson. I'd spent the night with a bunch of friends at their house one block off campus. A high school friend of ours phoned from Michigan with the news after the first plane struck the WTC and my friend came out into the living room, woke us all up and turned on the TV. We sat there in our underwear and watched events unfold. It was still a few hours before anyone had to be in class, so there was plenty of time for everyone to get email (or check Blackboard) about canceled lectures. We had lots of time to sit around and talk about what was happening, and we were lucky enough to be at such a remove from potential targets that we could talk and consider what this meant for the direction of the USA.

Some classes weren't canceled. Stadium-sized events were put on hold. In subsequent days mostly everything went on as usual, except much more somberly.
posted by carsonb at 3:50 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: At UPenn (Philadelphia), classes were cancelled around noon or so. Students and staff were asked to be careful getting home. I remember one of the older professors being nonplussed about things and staying at work. I can't recall the following days, other than blood donation drives and some of the IT staff getting together to drive up to NYC to help out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:53 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: Instructor POV here. I was teaching a rhetoric seminar that morning at a top 20 school over 1000 miles away. We were in the university's first 'enhanced' classroom with lots of built-in technology including a giant screen TV that took up one wall. I had been watching the news all morning, but several students hadn't heard about it. I put the news on the big screen (muted), and although we were certainly sympathetic, none of the students seemed especially affected, so class carried on as normal. IIRC, the topic was Kenneth Burke.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:55 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was a freshman at NYU. It was my second week of class. My professor came in teary-eyed and said class was cancelled, there was a plane crash. She made it sound like a single-engine plane. I walked out of class and into Weinstein (a residence hall), where there was a TV turned to CNN and saw the second plane crash. Then I stood around in Washington Square Park for some amount of time with gather crowds of students, professors and the kind of people in that park on a weekday morning. When the buildings collapsed we saw them live with our naked eye. People were understandably pretty freaked out. A few were wailing.

I left the park and walked to my dorm a few blocks north. Within a few hours everyone I knew was in their rooms. Phone service was out. Internet was down. A few friends lived nearby, New Jersey or upstate and we considered going. But we heard rumors that that bridges or tunnels were bombed (or wired to blow). We had rumors of gunfire in midtown. Then the dust kicked up. What a lot of people forget is the cloud of dust that enveloped everything for almost a week. We tied bandanas around our faces anytime we left, and the windows stayed closed for a week.

We all dragged mattresses into one dorm room and slept there, 20 of us or so. Kind of like a sad slumber party. I think that lasted until class started again. All our doors were propped open all day and night.

14th street was the northern barrier, Canal street was the southern: you couldn't get downtown on foot on by car. If we left 14th (northward) we were afraid we couldn't get back to the dorms (plus where would we go?) because we didn't have proof of residency.

After a few days, dump truck after dump truck routed down Broadway 24 hours a day every day for weeks. It was the only noise really - no other cars or emergency vehicles now. I think they went back up Fifth avenue.

We survived on NYU's food and bottled water, plus the ample food most of us had this early in the start of the semester. Class was cancelled for seven days.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:57 PM on September 26, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I was in early morning class in Oklahoma when the first plane hit. I didn't known that anything had happened until I returned to the dorm. The word at the time was simply that the pentagon had been bombed.

That was concerning enough to turn on the news. My floor spent the rest of the morning watching as things unfolded, including watching the towers fall. Shock and silence was the reaction.

I recall going to creative writing class that afternoon, but none of the students were interested in workshopping. The instructor gave a halfhearted nod toward the situation but there wasn't much to say. Silence was the theme of the day. But classes weren't cancelled.

Personally, I spent the day in despair. There was about a week there where I was sure that all hope was gone and war was coming.
posted by owls at 3:58 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was a freshman at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. I had an early class, 8am or so, and afterwards I walked with the professor to another building to talk to him about something. Another professor came in and asked if we had heard the news. He said something about New York being bombed. I went back to the dorm and I think we must have turned on the TV in the lounge. I believe classes were cancelled at least for the day.

I am from California but Tulane draws a lot of students from the Northeast so there were a lot of students who were really freaked out for their families and friends. I was just freaked out in general. I am pretty sure classes were cancelled the rest of the day.

I remember going to eat dinner at this burrito placec called Kokopelli's (why do I remember that?) and just hanging out with my floormates and friends. I was only a few weeks into school so mostly I was just weirded out about being so far away from my family during such a scary event.

I also remember shortly after my school held some "non-denominational" service thing and for some reason I went and it was overly religious and I was super uncomfortable around all these mega-religious people. I basically went because I thought I was supposed to go, not because it made me feel better.

Sorry this is not very articulate, if I think of anything else I'll post again.
posted by radioamy at 3:58 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A friend of mine was in class and said it was eerie because everyone's cell phone - in the whole building, all 9 floors - went off at once.

My brother's classes were all cancelled save one. That class had an exam that day, and the prof refused to move it. My brother went, took the exam, went back out to the parking lot, and discovered someone had stolen his truck.
posted by RogueTech at 4:02 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I went to college in western New York. I was in a lab that started at 8 a.m. Our lab instructor came in and said, "I just got a call that the World Trade Center was hit by a plane. I'm part of the National Guard so I have to go." I walked back to my dorm through the student union where I saw upset people setting up tables, counselors, religious leaders, phone lines. There was a tense energy. I went back to my dorm and we started watching a TV in someone's room.

Not related at all but part of that day for me: I had just gotten out of a long-time relationship with someone in my city and started seeing someone else who lived in a different city. Ex-boyfriend started calling me and trying to get me to agree to get back together. I think he might have proposed? Meanwhile I was trying to call my current boyfriend. It was very weird and surreal. Then I called my father who lived near my college. I asked, "Dad, what's happening?" I kid you not, he responded, "oh, the world is ending!" VERY HELPFUL, DAD.

Phones didn't really work, which was a pain in the ass. There was a weird sense of "are we next?" which in hindsight probably doesn't make sense but there was so much uncertainty.

Classes were canceled but it didn't matter. No one was going. My college was maybe 25% kids from the NYC area. People in the dorms started making plans to go give blood. A girl who lived in a dorm next to mine was freaking out because her uncle and cousin were firefighters in NY. Eventually, our university organized buses to take students from NYC to see their families. She went and stood on a street corner, holding her missing family members' pictures for hours. I don't think they were ever found.

The people who worked in the dorms, like the RAs and RDs, checked on people and organized stuff so we could get away from our TVs for a while. We held a prayer service and candlelight vigil at some point. We sang "we shall overcome." The university sent around emails saying that we should stop watching TV because it wasn't healthy. The thing was, it wasn't like disaster-type stories recently. There was always some new development, some new thing, another horrifying angle, so it was hard to walk away.
posted by kat518 at 4:05 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I woke up at about 10 to an email from the school saying something about flights being grounded and that asked us to stay put (This was at a smallish college in rural-ish Virginia). I lived in a dorm. My roommate had flown out to Vegas (I think?) that weekend to see Madonna, but she had luckily flown back the day before.

Pre-coffee and groggy, I found this odd but shrugged it off. Then I turned on the TV.

Classes weren't canceled but I'm pretty sure none of the professors cared if people didn't show up (I didn't go to any of mine). I think there were some campus gatherings, but most of us on my dorm hall just stayed in our rooms and watched TV, talked to people online a bit, and talked quietly to each other. I remember eventually going to dinner in the dining hall and how quiet it all was, and how nice everyone was to each other.

It was weird, but we were in a pretty isolated bubble where we were (although many people came from Northern Virginia so there was some reasons to be shaken up). My brother and his wife had just moved to NYC literally the week before so I was waiting to hear from them (I did and they were fine, thankfully).

It was not the same thing at all but the previous semester several buildings that were under renovation had burned down in a massive fire (some offices were destroyed because of water/smoke damage, though). That was all weird and surreal and pretty devastating to witness, but several of us talked about how that almost felt like practice for 9/11 -- just a lot of being a in a daze and dealing with destruction.

We were all still very shaken, though, and I remember staying up fairly late talking to my roommate because neither of us really wanted to sleep.
posted by darksong at 4:06 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: University of Wisconsin-Madison -- a school with a large population of New Yorkers. I was living in an apartment building with my then-bf and we had some friends down the hall (D and T). I think I turned on the TV first and had terrible reception, so I went over there.

I called my bf, who was up in his office, and said, "umm, I don't know why I am telling you this but maybe you should find a tv because there was a plane crash or two into the world trade center and... uh... it looks bad." It felt SO WEIRD to be worried about this event that seemed to have nothing to do with me, thousands of miles away. It's like telling someone that a celebrity died -- why does it matter? Will the other person even care?

And then I realized that D was from Brooklyn -- and his uncle worked at the WTC. (He got through to his uncle later that day, I think, but it took a long time because all of the cell towers were super overloaded.) D was pretty calm for a guy whose home was under attack, but he's the kind of guy who held things in a lot.

I was supposed to go to swimming, but I skipped it. Later in the day, I had choir and we were all sort of milling around outside the rehearsal hall. The director showed up and said, "Yeah, let's just cancel today..." so we all went home.

I can't actually remember much about the New Yorkers' reactions. They tended to live in a different part of campus (private dorms) and study different things (business, comm arts); there's a pretty well-documented Coastie (read: rich, Jewish, daddy's money) v. Sconnie (Midwestern, corn-fed, cheap beer, yada yada) rivalry. D was a black guy from the PJs, so his experience was pretty different from both. But it was the kind of thing that made you remember that fancy finance guys died alongside firefighters... and busboys from Windows on the World, and transit operators, and all sorts of other people. And more likely than not, you knew someone who was affected.

There were a LOT of vigils. There was one at the big performing arts center in town, where every group you could think of came up with their most somber pieces -- but we all had, like, five minutes to get a 60-person university choir onstage, sing, and quickly run off for the youth orchestra to set up. That sort of thing. EVERYBODY wanted to do something.
posted by Madamina at 4:10 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was at Case Western in Cleveland, living in an apartment near campus. I found out when my dad called to woke me up, but as I was walking to class people walking the other direction told me all classes were canceled. I went home and watched tv for the next few days; there were vigils, but I didn't attend. My primary memory, aside from the tv, was the silence of no planes in the sky.

Complicating factors: an unusually high percentage of east coasters in Case's student body; Cleveland was the site of a phantom attack (an emergency landing following a plane hijacking) that was widely reported for several hours and then forgotten when it turned out to be bogus.
posted by gerryblog at 4:14 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was a grad student in Boston. Rolled out of bed around 8-9ish and checked the news online (nando.net), saying that a plane had hit one of the twin towers. I assumed it was a Cessna-sized private plane and went to my 10am class rather than turned on the TV. By the time I got to class, the full extend had become apparent, and my professor mentioned what had happened and let everyone know that if any of us felt the need to leave, that was totally ok. By the time I got out of class, I checked the news online and saw that the towers had collapsed.

In the hallways of the buildings, there were a bunch of closed circuit TVs that were usually tuned to an internal "daily announcement" channel. The university had that day tuned them to CNN, and lots of people were standing in the halls watching the news on those TVs. My laboratory had a TV in one of the main lab areas (used for research projects), and we hung out in the lab, not doing any work but watching the unfolding news.
posted by deanc at 4:14 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: At MIT, no classes were cancelled. I was a freshman and this was in the first few weeks of school.

I ran into a friend as I was walking through the hallway from my first to second class; he simply told me to go to the lobby of the building and look at the news on the TV. There were about 20 people watching at that point. I couldn't see the screen well and heard the news rather than seeing it. I still have never seen the footage of either tower being hit or collapsing.

I attended all my usual classes that day; there was a vigil/ceremony in a central location that day, but I choose not to attend. I was very worried about potential government responses. I am from the Midwest and had no family or close friends in the area at the time.
posted by matematichica at 4:17 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: Not a student then, but a college employee in the library. The students in the library and the employees gathered around the TV we had (poor reception) and watched aghast. We were not anywhere near the communities that were attacked.
posted by michellenoel at 4:18 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I went to college in Oakland/SF and lived in a dorm in Oakland; I had an 8am drawing class that day. Not having a TV or radio (or family back East) I obliviously went about my morning and showed up to class. That’s when things got weird. I wasn’t the only one who came – but a bunch of students weren’t there, maybe half the class was missing (as I discovered later, many of these students had family back East, and had been up watching the news/on the phone with their families since 4:30 or 5 am). I think the teacher was there listening to the radio; by the time we sorted out what had happened and he was about to send us home the school officially cancelled classes for the day anyway. I think a decent percentage of my classmates (and school staff, in all likelihood) had family in the NYC area and many people were not showing up for class/work. On top of that, I think they (the school? The City?) were discouraging people from travelling on the bridges – they might have closed the bridges, I can’t remember. I have friends in NYC, and eventually my mom called and said she’d talked to my friends’ moms who’d said everyone I knew was OK. I have no idea what I did for the rest of the day. In all honesty, I probably did homework. When the war became official and there were protests in SF, we had several professors cancel class so they (and we) could go protest (or photograph the protest) if we wanted.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:28 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: Also, classes were cancelled in part because we had two campuses - one in SF and one in Oakland, so we had students living in SF and Oakland and regularly travelling between the two and closing the bridges or just trying to keep people/traffic off it meant that lots of people couldn't get to class. I don't remember there being any actual bridge threats, but city officials were concened about the (iconic, heavily trafficed, etc...) bridges being a target.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:31 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was a sophomore at MIT at the time. I remember hearing a confusing announcement during one of my classes and then when I got out and walked through the building lobby there were large crowds of students congregating around TV sets that were set up. The atmosphere seemed rather surreal at the time -- half the students were going about their normal activities and ignoring it and half of the students were sort of wandering around in shock. I think attendance policies were more relaxed than usual, but I don't recall classes being cancelled. I was mainly focused that day on getting in touch with family members to make sure that various relatives in NYC were safe.
posted by Poegar Tryden at 4:38 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was in my dorm on the Upper West Side of NYC. I was doing my morning routine when one of my suitemates came out of her room and said something strange was happening on the news, something about a plane hitting one of the towers.

I went in and watched with her, but then she had to leave for work. As I watched after she left, one of my other suitemates woke up and we watched it together. I decided not to go to French class, and I suspected it would have been cancelled anyway.

Another roommate came home from an early class, and we watched the news in a huddle in my room. When the second tower collapsed, I remember hearing the news announcer screaming that there had been another explosion, but I knew that was wrong. "That wasn't an explosion," I said, my skin prickling. "The tower is gone. It's gone."

One of my suitemates had a friend who had just gotten out of the subway near the towers when people started jumping. She saw bodies falling. She managed to get back on a train uptown before the MTA stopped running, but they stopped before she got all the way uptown. She had to walk fifty blocks to get to us, and when we asked what she needed, she said she wanted to watch something that would make her feel better. We put on The Princess Bride.

I had been waiting for an overnight shipment of medication, because I had just had my wisdom teeth out, and the insurance situation meant my mom had to fill my prescription in her state and then send it to me. I had to go without it, because no packages were getting into the city on that day.

When we looked out our windows downtown, the intensely blue sky was marred by an enormous smoke pillar.

I walked to the corner market. There were no cars in the street. It was eerily quiet, like New York had turned into a New York City movie set and the scene hadn't started yet. Fighter jets screamed overhead occasionally. We kept hearing that the University had set up places for people to give blood, but the lines were so long it was taking hours to donate.

I remember that most of the humanities and social sciences classes were cancelled on that day and the next one, but all my friends who had math and science classes had professors who insisted that taking a day off was unnecessary.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 4:39 PM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I was a freshman in a small military college in Vermont called Norwich University. It was early in the year, so I was in a basic training phase called 'rookdom' where the upperclassmen treated the incoming class like new recruits in the military. I got up and went to formation and class as usual, and then when I came back from my morning classes some of the upperclassmen called out to me as I was coming up the stairs past their room and told me what happened. I didn't really process it until they set up a tv in the hallway so all of the freshmen could watch news (we weren't allowed cell phones, computers, or tvs of our own). It was really surreal; classes were cancelled, all training was basically suspended and we could act like normal people for a day.

Everyone alternated between staring at the news, trying to call home, and talking about what we were going to do to the people who had done this; the majority of people who were attending Norwich and in the corps of cadets (the military organization of the university) were planning to commission as an officer in one of the armed service branches or already in the reserves. A lot of people who were on the fence about joining the military decided to do it after that day.

It's pretty fair to say that the entire college experience of my class, and everyone who I knew at Norwich, was shaped by 9/11, as it was clear that all of my friends and I were gong to go to war pretty quickly after graduation, if not sooner.

We had an echo taps formation later that night or later in the week, I can't remember which.
posted by _cave at 4:45 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was a senior at a state university in Florida. I had a pretty early class that day (History of Pop Culture -- probably started around 8:30). The first half of class was normal; the prof set us free on break and some students headed down to the cafeteria while my friends and I stayed and chatted.

After a few minutes, several students came back and said a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and it was on TV. Confused and concerned, we all headed down to the cafeteria, where the story was playing out on the big TV in the seating area. We joined the growing crowd around the TV and tuned in just as one of the towers fell.

We watched for some time; then a friend and I headed to our next class. We figured it would be cancelled but wanted to double-check. Classes were indeed cancelled for the rest of the day; I believe they were back in session the following day.
posted by QuickedWeen at 4:48 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was a grad student teaching a math class at CU Boulder, 9am I think. I announced the news and gave my phone to students who had family and friends in NY and DC to call them in the hall while I went on with class. There were only a few such students and they were free to leave, but only maybe one did. Another student of mine at a community college (I was adjuncting to make ends meet) didn't show up to class the next day since, I think, she lost her boyfriend in the attacks and dropped out.

As an aside, a few years later I had a former student who was ROTC who was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. That was the day I started to feel less like a young, hip guy teaching other young people and more like an adult in a room full of kids.
posted by monkeymadness at 4:51 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: I was at RISD, an art school in Providence. The schedule there starts and ends later than other colleges -- I'd just moved in and classes hadn't started yet. That morning I realized I had the wrong key for my dorm and was locked out, so I went by Res Life to get the correct key. While I was waiting in the office, the radio was interrupted to announce that the first plane had hit. I clearly remember a woman in the office saying, "I know it sounds terrible, but I hope it's one of ours."

After I got my key, I went back to my room and tried checking news websites, but nothing was loading. I walked around the halls until I found someone with a TV -- she'd left her door open and people were just wandering in and watching.
posted by Marit at 4:58 PM on September 26, 2013

Best answer: California. UCD starts absurdly late in September, so we were on summer break. Students, faculty, lots of friends trapped in NYC or overseas for days, stuck in airports. I was woken up that day (again, summer break, I think I stayed in town to work that summer; my roommate was taking classes) when my roommate pounded on my door screaming that her mom had just called and I had to get up and see the news. This was during the part of my life that I was absolutely certain I would be moving to Manhattan after graduation, and I was terrified.

So, essentially, 'yes' to all your questions. It felt like a world away from CA, but holy shit were we glued to the TV. I think it was that evening, people all over the country came out with candles at a particular time - and the streets of Davis were flooded with people just sitting outside, crying and holding candles.

What was the mood like on that day and immediately afterward?
Mostly I remember that we talked about it a LOT every day, and sometimes people would start to cry during these types of discussions. Also - a kid died at my high school, and the mood was similar - people grieving, crying, being subdued, all while trying to go back to normal school/life.
posted by polly_dactyl at 4:59 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Before I start: this is an interesting article from my university. A copy of the second image, of the girl looking horrified, is I believe in the Smithsonian.

Like a lot of people in Central Time who had class at 9:30, I missed 9/11 as it happened in NYC and DC. At 10:20 when my class got out, I took off and walked across my campus' central area known as the Pentacrest. If there was any buzz in the air, my clueless self didn't notice it as I was still oblivious to events out East.

I pulled into my next class which started at 10:55 with time to spare. I took my usual seat. My brother, who was in school with me at the same time, was there already with his closed captionist helper. There was a definite buzz in the room with people talking, but I assumed it was just preclass chatter. Then my brother came over and started telling me about how his helper had heard certain rumors that to us sounded totally off the wall. Planes hitting the WTC? Towers falling down? WTF?

So Bro and I did what any enterprising students should do with the unattended university computer in the room, we went went on the Web and pointed our browser to CNN.com...

And that was the end of the world as we knew it.

Our prof came in and she announced what had happened and that the WTC towers were gone. We had class. (In fact, the university did not systematically cancel classes, but left it up to professors and none of my classes that day or the rest of the week were cancelled.)

I don't remember if it was 9/11 or the 12th, but when I went to my next international politics class, the TAs were all pretty excited.

The one thing on 9/11 that stands out from my memories of that day is the fact that I saw something I had never seen before and probably will never see again: a newspaper extra edition. As I was walking home from class, there was a guy on the street corner selling them (he may have been handing them out for free, I don't remember.) The edition consisted mostly of photos. It was just surreal, an extra edition and people reading them on the corner or as they walked away.

We had the usual candlelight vigils after that, but I don't remember much else out of the ordinary. Life went on as it always does.
posted by Fukiyama at 5:21 PM on September 26, 2013

I was a junior at a small women's college outside Philadelphia. I woke up and dragged myself to my early class - 'Mesopotamia Before 1600'. It was in the basement of a library, no windows, not isolated per se because there were several classrooms, but no TVs nearby or radio or anything. I didn't have a TV, but a few people were saying something about some kind of plane crash in New York. Because information was spotty, I assumed it was a small charter plane in Long Island sound or in the woods, because those crashes happen with some frequency, to be honest. (I guess deanc thought the same thing - good to know I wasn't alone in that.)

My professor - who had to be at least in his 80s, a very non-reactive gent - had gone back out to the slide storage room nearby to retrieve his slide carousels for class. He came back in and said something like 'There seems to be some sort of incident. Do you want to cancel class?' And I said "No," assuming it was some little incident that would be forgotten by the end of the month. So we had class. I am pretty sure people were pissed off at me later for saying that.

When we left class it was pretty obvious I was wrong about the scale. I remember a radio being on in the library at the circulation desk, and that itself was jarring. The grad students hung out there and kind of hovered around it. I think I remember going to the campus center - I know I did at some point - and they had set up the big TV and people were crowded around it. The dorms' TV rooms were probably full too, but I don't really remember. I didn't want to be near people, and it seemed like people sorted themselves into 'I want to be alone' and 'I want to be with people watching the news' groups.

I wandered back to my dorm, which was in the building with the largest cafeteria, and there were a lot of groups assembling themselves, people wandering, both inside and outside. I remember standing outside my dorm holding my cellphone and trying once to get my parents, but so many other people told me no calls were going through, so I shrugged and figured I'd find out if either of them had gotten called in to work later. (They both worked in industries that tend to get called in during emergencies, and being 90 minutes outside the city, this was kind of plausible.)

Moodwise, the international students (we had a lot) and people from NYC (ditto) were largely freaking out. I was sort of dazed, and I remember sitting in my dorm using the internet and kind of avoiding the news.

Classes weren't cancelled as a whole, which I don't really remember, because I think I may not have had many classes that day, or else, mine were. I ended up leaving campus, leaving a long note on my whiteboard saying where I was - with a friend who was a recent alum and living in a suburban apartment - where we watched MST3K and bad movies because neither of us wanted to watch the news. Anyone who wasn't in their room had left the a note on their door or their room's whiteboard with somewhat detailed information about where they were, at which TV or other dorm they had gathered.

(A summary in part of what happened on campus and the neighboring campus is here: Winter College News. )
posted by cobaltnine at 5:38 PM on September 26, 2013

I was also at Tulane University, in my last year. The university has "on-campus apartments", which is where I was living with 3 friends. I woke up from what is still the most horrible nightmare I've ever had, having only slept for about 3 hours. I went downstairs to find one of my roommates on the couch, staring at the TV. He told me I had to check it out. I plopped down next to him and we started talking about how a plane could be so off course and off instruments, what would have to happen for something like this to even be possible. Then we watched the second plane hit, live. Well, that's not an accident, now is it.

As radioamy said, a lot of Tulane students are from the northeast. I'm one of them (Massachusetts). I didn't have any reason to believe anyone I knew would be affected, but by the same token, I didn't have any reason to believe someone didn't take a day trip to NYC, so I got pretty worried about that. Classes were cancelled, I believe. I definitely didn't go to any that day, but that wasn't totally unusual for me. There was a statement from the president of the university up on the website within a few minutes.

I think around 10-11 am central, we were all asked to come out to the quad. The RAs explained what happened, gave out some Red Cross numbers that everyone knew weren't going to work for a while, took some questions but they didn't know anything more than any of us did. At the end of the meeting, one of them said, "One more thing. We don't know who did this or whether this was an attack, but there's going to be a lot of speculation and anger. So, I hate to say this, but if you're of a Middle Eastern or Arabic persuasion, it might be a good idea for you to stick close to campus for a few days."

I looked around the quad and suddenly realized I was the only person who qualified in that group. That made me kind of nervous. I went back to my apartment, told my roommate to tell any ROTC idiots who might show up that I wasn't here (none did, and I have no rational reason to think that would happen, but y'know), and went back up to my room. I'm pretty sure I was on the internet for the rest of the day. Classes started back up the next day, and I didn't leave campus for close to two weeks and stayed pretty nervous about whether I was going to get jumped for a while (I did not). I'm trying to remember when I felt normal about things again. I did, but it was a fairly significant interval of time. But yeah, it's all people talked about for a while, and a few weeks later my poetry workshop did an assignment and a public reading on it, which was about as meaningful as it sounds.
posted by Errant at 5:38 PM on September 26, 2013

I attended the University of Delaware from 2000-2002. At about 9:15 am on 9/11 I was driving to school and listening to Howard Stern's radio show- at this time, either the second plane hadn't yet struck the WTC, or else the news hadn't been reported. Initially incredulous due to the severity of the attack and the typically bizarre content of Stern's show, I remember thinking that this joke was in extremely poor taste. Within a few moments it became clear that this was real.

I believe I had 2 classes that day; in the first, I seemed to be the only person that had heard of the attacks, and I informed first the professor and then my classmates after the completion of the lecture. I remember no significant emotional response at this time, beyond a understandable interest from everyone.

In between my classes was lunch, and I walked to my usual pizza joint for two slices, stopping on my way to speak with a professor about that day being another "day that will live in infamy" a la Pearl Harbor. My lunch in hand, I walked to the student union, which housed the offices of the student organization of which I was a member.

Newark, DE is sufficiently proximate to NYC that there were many students with ties to New York. In the student union, televisions that normally broadcast a scroll of upcoming events had been tuned to news coverage. I particularly remember one television in an entryway that was attended to by a crowd of students lying prone or seated on the tile floor, silent except for muffled sobs.

By my second class of the day, everyone knew. My professor for this class was a really kind, low key guy (a one-time hippie I believe)- he took attendance and then directed us outside, where we sat in a circle in a grass field, cross-legged, and talked. Students that wished to leave were allowed to do so, but most stayed, to talk, think, and listen.
posted by EKStickland at 5:44 PM on September 26, 2013

What was it like? It really sucked, a lot.

I was in Ann Arbor, MI, in my first week or two of college. I was walking back to my dorm room from a Physics class, and I was unable to access the Internet from my Nextel cell phone. After I noticed that, I tested the voice-call capability and was unable to place that type of call as well. This seemed unusual to me but I had no idea as to what might be causing it.

When I got back to my room, one of my roommates was there. He said, "dude, something bad is going on; turn on the news." (We did not have a television set, but we had TV tuners in our computers, connected to the campus cable system.) I turned on my TV card and saw on CNN that two planes had hit the WTC. It seemed obvious that the impacts were the result of terrorism immediately at the time.

Very shortly thereafter, we received an email stating that classes were cancelled for the rest of the day. Because of a putative lawsuit, classes at the University had not been cancelled in over 22 (at-the-time) years.

In the first day or two following the attacks, I didn't have much of an opinion on peoples' reactions to the attacks. It was new and shocking and everyone was trying to process what had happened.

After that, everything turned ugly.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 5:45 PM on September 26, 2013

It was pretty surreal. I was at a not terribly social school, in a not terribly big city. I had the TV turned to CMT (country music, don't ask) and realized they weren't playing music... just an emergency breaking news deal, probably piped in from CNN or Fox. I think this was shortly after the first plane hit. I think I saw the second one hit; I'm pretty certain I did not see the towers collapse. Classes were not officially canceled, but not a one of my professors said a word about missing that day. Two of them, military historians both, said we would be at war within five years over this, though.

There was a few official events. Counseling offers. There was a near zero % of the population from NY. A lot of anger. A military base very near the school was on lockdown and high alert. Some jet flybys, though that wasn't terribly unusual. For sure more of them than any other week. Mostly, I think we suffered in quiet, or got angry and often jingoistic.
posted by Jacen at 5:57 PM on September 26, 2013

I was a junior at Notre Dame and would do weights with two of my friends in the morning. I walked into the old gym as the second plane hit. I still remember being bothered by the man, who checked me into the gym, reacting as if this were a prank video feed as we watched the replay. Leave it to 20 year old me to not understand the pure disbelief.

We ended up clustered around the tvs in the cardio room waiting to learn what was going on, before eventually heading back to our rooms an hour later. I woke up my roommates and told them, and then called to tell my parents, who were both home from work that day due to a doctor's appointment and were still oblivious to the fact. I had a lot of friends from the east coast and we were using AOL Instant Messenger to check in with roomies of the ones whose families lived or worked in NYC, as we didn't know who could be affected and those friends were unable to immediately receive updates. I don't remember any of my friends having cell phones until the spring of 2002, so people were staying close to their dorm phones for a while.

Classes were eventually cancelled and the university held an outdoor mid-day mass that (I think, or maybe it was the next day) on one of the campus's longest quads. It was packed with some students lining the windows of the buildings along the quad. Many of us still talk about the sense of community in the wake of tragedy that was so prevalent on the quad.
posted by icaicaer at 5:58 PM on September 26, 2013

I was at UPenn attending an AM seminar. Two boys came late to class, and one- an avid plane person -asked if I saw the news about the commuter plane that hit the WTC. The seminar was until noon, and people regularly left for bathroom breaks, etc. We were in the basement, and there was a large auditorium. A university staff member had turned the huge screen to CNN. Every time someone left the room, they would return whispering more details.

We all left for a 15 minute mid- morning break, it may not have been perfectly timed to the class's middle. I remember sitting in the dark auditorium and seeing the first tower fall. We never made it back to class that day. The school cancelled classes, and me and my friend went back to my dorm room (she lived off campus & didn't have the free uni cable), watched CNN with eyes wide & mouths agape, and kept trying to make contact with our boyfriends who lived in Manhattan & worked in finance.

We were all waiting for something else horrific to happen. With Philadelphia being between DC and NYC, people were genuinely scared about possible targets in our city.

I think I finally spoke to my boyfriend that evening. Cell phone service was rough all day. And that was not a good semester, all-in-all. Right after that, a classmate (in grad program of 20 or so students) tried to kill himself. My boyfriend wasn't doing well with his depression, quit his job, and left for Europe. And then I decided not to return to class after Thanksgiving break until January (due to my own mental health issues). I finished those incomplete grades in the fall of 2002.

I worked in a bookstore in Manhattan on the weekends (visiting boyfriend), and that entire fall, each time I walked to work, I heard bagpipes playing at a funeral for another fireman. Very gloomy; still makes me very sad to think about it all.
posted by Kronur at 5:58 PM on September 26, 2013

I lived in an off-campus apartment a few blocks away from Iowa State University. I woke up as usual, showered, and started walking to class. We didn't have computers or internet in our apartment, because these things were still out of our price range at the time. So, I didn't have any way to check the news before setting out for my first class, except for turning on CNN or something. This was not a habit for me, so I didn't do it.

The Memorial Union was directly between my apartment and my first class, so I usually cut through it to grab a newspaper and sometimes a snack. When I approached the door, I saw a sign taped to the door that said, "Coverage of today's news events in the Great Hall." This was very unusual--the Great Hall is a huge room usually used for speeches, dances, parties, etc. I thought maybe it was University-specific news or something, so I walked into the Great Hall to check it out.

That's when I saw footage of the first tower collapsing projected onto a huge movie screen. Students in the hall were in various stages of grief and shock. Many were weeping.

I can't remember how much longer I watched--maybe 10, 15 minutes. I then decided, "I can't handle today." I turned around and headed back to my apartment. When I arrived, I found my roommate watching CNN with tears streaming down his face. By this time I think the second tower was down, but I can't remember for sure. I didn't say much and went back to bed. I don't remember anything else from that day. If I had to guess, I probably woke up later and dulled my nerves with drugs and alcohol. This was my typical response to stress back then.

I have no idea if classes were cancelled that day because I did not go to them. When I attended the next day of classes (I can't remember if the next day was cancelled or not), most classes had put their subject matter on hold to discuss the events. It was too big not to, especially considering that I was a journalism major at the time.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:58 PM on September 26, 2013

I was attending Stanford University, and the fall quarter had not yet started - I happened to be working in an on campus work assignment, so I was living in a single room in the dorms for a training session. There were only a handful of people in my hallway, who I did not yet know. Being on the west coast, it was very early, and the only reason I woke up was a call from my mother, who was on a business trip in Canada at the time. I turned on the television, and shortly after I saw the first tower fall. I basically stayed in my room just watching the coverage, with a phone call or two to my parents. My experience with 9/11 was oddly solitary in that way, people around campus were talking about it when I went out later in the day, but I distinctly remember just sitting on the floor of my basement dorm room staring at the television.

What made it especially surreal for me is the fact that I had flown in to California from Missouri on 9/10/01. Obviously there was no risk to my plane, but it was a sobering thought. One days difference from sitting in California to caught in the chaos of that day, stranded and frightened. My mother was scheduled to fly back to Missouri from Canada the next day, and ended up stuck for the better part of a week.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:13 PM on September 26, 2013

I was in my sophomore year at UNCP. I had a room alone, and didn't have classes until late morning. So I slept through the attacks, and found out when a friend called me. My friend lived in either Florida or South Carolina at the time - so I didn't find out from anyone on campus.

I don't know exactly how the news spread, but it did spread pretty quickly. There were several public televisions on campus, and people congregated at them. Things were quiet and weird. Prayer circles and etc started popping up over the next few days, but I don't remember anything being excellently organized.

I didn't go to any of my classes that day, but they were generally not cancelled. My logic professor apparently thanked the students who did attend. Because I was far from the only person to skip. When I answered my phone, my friend responded to my hello with, "We're going to war." So I never went through a moment of "oh, maybe this was a terrible accident", because both the towers were down by the time I woke up. And my friend was obviously correct that it was terrorism, and that we were going to war.

Also, UNCP is only a county away from Fort Bragg, so there were students there with military friends/family/spouses who weren't allowed off base, as a result of the attacks. There was some nervousness and frustration floating around about that, and some concern that those friends and relatives were inevitably going to be deployed.

I was a member of the re-booted LGBTQS student alliance at the time, and we had scheduled our very first meeting for the evening of September 11. It was totally unattended, as you can imagine. It was a pretty low membership club anyway (and the BSU kept trying to get us kicked off campus), but it was truly desolate that day.

The campus was a odd mix of liberal and conservative viewpoints in the first place, but it definitely got stranger after September 11. In my Intro to Religion class, a girl turned her presentation on Elie Wiesel's Night into an disorganized, ax-grinding polemic that went thusly, "Liberals are just like people who ignored the Holocaust, because they don't want us to go to war with Afghanistan and etc." That kind of rhetoric did pick up, big time.

I had a TV in my room, and I turned it on as soon as my friend called. After a few days of watching the horrible footage. I turned off my TV. And I never really turned it on again. That was the end for me and television news.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:16 PM on September 26, 2013

I was a junior at small state school in the Western US studying to become a civil engineer. At the time I woke up to a radio alarm clock, which was set to NPR and it took me a few minutes to figure out what the hell they were talking about, turn on the tv and see the second tower fall and hear about the pentagon strike.

Classes did not get canceled and being in Junior and senior level engineering classes at the time, pretty much everyone showed up. We didn't get much work done however. We talked about it at length in all my classes that day and the next and had some pretty surreal conversations.

Engineers are a little different than normal people and we tended to process it very dispassionately and kinda in the same way you critique a sports game or a big movie. I remember setting around a class and everyone trading ideas about just how bad we could screw up this countries (or any really) infrastructure with 20 guys willing to die and minimal resources. I am not going to recount any of them here, but trust me, a roomful of young energetic engineers who are training to become experts in infrastructure can come up with some very plausible, very terrifying scenarios to hurt this country (none of which I would ever do if the NSA is reading this thread) very badly, and maybe not as many immediate fatalities but much worse secondary effects and possibly greater economic damages.

We also decided any attack anywhere near our location would be totally pointless and we didn't have any immediate dangers. However the haunted look in the few people i knew with relatives in New York and Washington was very chilling, and we didn't have any of the morbid what if talks around them that I remember. The rest of the semester was pretty surreal also.
posted by bartonlong at 6:16 PM on September 26, 2013

I was at Princeton, not as a student but as a postdoctoral instructor. 9/11 was freshman advising day, so I was spending the whole day talking with first-year students about what courses they were going to take that semester. Scattered news trickled in over the course of the morning, but if you want to know the truth, it did not much affect the course of the day -- people were mostly concerned about figuring out what courses they should take. Classes weren't meeting yet, but first-year advising was definitely not canceled. The whole thing seemed very far away, and I remember it seeming weird that I got several e-mails from friends asking if we were OK. Looking at some of my e-mails from the few days afterwards, it looks like the flow of the semester was really not very much changed.
posted by escabeche at 6:27 PM on September 26, 2013

I was a professor at Vassar on 9/11.

I'm late responding because I wrote the above sentence and had a breakdown with my supportive, loving spouse.

I was teaching an early class and left the classroom building afterwards to go to the student center and get cup of coffee.

On the way, I noticed everyone was standing stock-still looking at their feet. Something was being broadcast. I think there was audio being broadcast. It started to dawn on me that something - ? - was happening.

I passed a math professor who was a buddy of mine. I said, "What's going on?"

He answered, "Fucking Osama Bin Laden," and went back to staring at the ground.

The first tower had been hit. I was in the student center and thus availed of TVs for the rest of everything we are all, unfortunately, familiar with. Many of the students were from in and around Manhattan and so many of them were saying, "Dr. Punctual, is my dad dead? He works there!" I didn't know what to say. I had nothing to tell them. What could I say?

So many of my colleagues lost spouses and loved ones, and so many students watched their parents and loved ones die.

Peace on Earth.
posted by Punctual at 6:42 PM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

First year grad student at Wisconsin, from New England. I heard something about a plane after my 9am class, and the department secretary had her tv on and let me watch with her.

The main things I remember that day were all the inaccuracies. A small plane crashed in NYC and the pilot was drunk. No, there were two, and this was a big deal. There were a dozen planes that weren't responding to the FAA, headed to Chicago and DC and Boston. No, they came FROM Boston, not going into Boston. Basically the panicky gamut.

The small groups were those of us trying to get through to friends in NYC or DC. Sharing cell phones because most of us didn't have them, sharing the department's public computer because we didn't want to go home and be alone (or miss anything that happened while we walked home.) Folks without a first degree contact were subdued but pretty calm, particularly the undergrads who were mostly locals with local friends. I didn't turn off my radio for days on end.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:52 PM on September 26, 2013

Freshman at the University of South Dakota at the time. I went to class very shortly after the first plane, like I think it hit during the time people were walking to class. There was some chat in class about a plane hitting the WTC, but I wasn't really paying attention to anything besides "ugh so tiiiired" and (weirdly, looking back) nobody seemed overly panicked and I kind of assumed it was like some small single-engine plane accident or something (this seems to be a common assumption people had), and then I got out of class and walked back to my dorm and read the news and woah.

Classes were canceled for the rest of the day, I think I spent most of the day lurking on the MeFi thread and talking to friends from high school over chat. Most people were holed up in their rooms watching news and talking to friends and family back home. That evening there were huge lines of cars at all the gas stations because people were freaking out, before the governor made a statement and put his foot down on jacking up gas prices. A lot of "Is there going to be a war? A draft?" going around campus, too. This was all during the first few days of my freshman year, so it was surreal doing all that new student stuff, like we had dorm floor elections in a common room with everyone just staring at the news on TV and vaguely going through the motions of what we were supposed to be doing.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:59 PM on September 26, 2013

I was a library staff member at an Illinois community college on 9/11/2001, and we very quickly opened up the library classroom for watching the news using a video projector. The college later began doing the same in the main auditorium, but not until after the towers had collapsed. It was an exceptionally emotional experience for everyone I encountered that day, and I am glad we were able to create a space for people to be around others while events were unfolding.

I wrote a brief piece about that day on the fifth anniversary and posted it on my blog (so this is a self-link, but a very relevant self-link): 11 September 2001
posted by 1367 at 7:10 PM on September 26, 2013

I was in a small liberal-arts college in Maine. (It drew students from in large part from the New England and NYC area.)

I had an 8AM class that morning, which was scheduled to run until 9:30... it's unclear to me now whether that class was released early, or if it ran until 9:30AM as scheduled. (This is something I've thought about, because I think I remember seeing the second plane hit the WTC, but if the class didn't get out until 9:30 then I couldn't have.) But at any rate, that class was the last one of the day.

By 9:30 when the first class got out, word had spread -- just by word of mouth, mostly -- that something really bad had happened. Most people did not have televisions in their dorm rooms, at least where I was living, so people gathered around TVs in common rooms / lounges and in the class buildings. I remember trying to listen to an audio livestream from CNN.com on my computer, and it was overloaded. (NPR worked, though.)

There was some weird, panicky misinformation that spread in the minutes right after the attacks. I remember someone running down the hallway in my residence hall, yelling "we're at war!" ...which in retrospect was prescient.

The big thing that I think has been lost in the commonly-retold September 11th narrative, which is really burned into my memory, is that period of time between the second WTC plane and then the Pentagon plane, followed by Flight 77 in Pennsylvania, when it wasn't clear how many planes had been hijacked and how long the attack was going to go on for, and how many targets there were going to be, and who exactly was attacking us. The realization after the first plane, that it was not simply an accident but a deliberate attack, and then that it wasn't just an attack but a coordinated one involving multiple planes ... 2 planes, then 3, then 4 ...

Anyway, classes were canceled the rest of the day, and then the following day (Wednesday). I'm not sure what, if anything, the college did to assist people whose parents were in NYC. Quite a few people hit the road immediately when they couldn't reach family members in the City, despite the requests not to do so. Some other people went down to volunteer and help, again despite requests that people not enter the city.

As a sidenote: I recall that some students at another liberal-arts school, not unlike the one I attended, burned an American flag in public sometime later on in the week immediately following 9/11. It was some sort of ill-conceived "statement" of ... something. Who knows what. It might have been a week or so later. (I can't find anything on Google about it because it gets clobbered in search results by the more recent thing at Middlebury.) There was really visceral shock on my campus, which considered itself pretty politically active and left-leaning, about that. In my entire college career I can't think of any time when there was as much across-the-board solidarity, a general shut-up-and-work-together attitude, among all the usually bickering political and social cliques. It wore off, of course, but it took a surprisingly long time to do so.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:25 PM on September 26, 2013

I was teaching at a university well away from the city but with a healthy contingent of students from NYC. I wrote this which describes my day that day. Classes were held at the discretion of the instructor, and I cancelled mine. But I know a lot of people did hold theirs. Lots of students did not come to class, lots did, and some profs held normal class (this was in eg math), some just held discussion of what was going on (eg in philosophy). The campus that day had about the usual number of people walking around, as I recall. Gossip passed freely and there was a lot of "can we come over and watch your tv" among people who didn't have tv. Internet access was ok but not as free and high-volume as it is today (and websites were down due to volume), so tv was the better way to follow events in the early part of the day.

There were teach-ins in the following days, moments of silence, lots of administrative outreach to be sure students knew they could come to the counseling center if they needed to talk. There may have been a special issue of the student newspaper? The rest of the semester was normal, schedule-wise - classes continued, etc. (Classes may have been cancelled for a day or two after?) There was pretty quickly a sharp rise in vocal views on Islam - "is Islam intrinsically violent", "no, Islam is a peaceful religion, here are some basic facts", etc - in student publications, and a somewhat lesser but still pronounced rise in "is US foreign policy bad" and related discussion.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:25 PM on September 26, 2013

My brother finished classes at Northeastern University over the summer, and his graduation was scheduled for September 11, 2001, so my whole family was gathered together getting ready for the ceremony. Graduation was cancelled, and my brother never did get the chance to walk down the aisle. His diploma actually says September 11, 2001. I was surprised they didn't get them reprinted to say September 12th or something.

I had the TV turned to CMT (country music, don't ask) and realized they weren't playing music... just an emergency breaking news deal, probably piped in from CNN or Fox.

One thing I wanted to point out that doesn't often get remembered is that EVERY CHANNEL (except maybe the kids networks) was either blacked out or displaying their parent company's news feed. It wasn't like you could just put on ESPN and watch SportsCenter to get away from the coverage, it was really the only thing on TV that whole day and night.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:34 PM on September 26, 2013

I was in college at EMU, though I lived off-campus. I caught the news in the morning (my mom called me as it happened, and I watched TV). Our campus cancelled classes almost immediately. The mood was crazy weird — the entire town was dead, with a lot of random shit blocked off (City Hall, police department). I tried to go into work later, since we had deadlines, but it was so spooky that everyone just left. All night, really for the rest of the week, we kept watching TV trying to figure out exactly what had happened.

My girlfriend at the time was in Thailand at a residential college, and she said they all gathered in the cafeteria after it happened, and that it was big news there too, but classes weren't cancelled. I remember fighting with her about how she couldn't really understand just how collapsed Ann Arbor got then, and didn't understand it as if she'd been home. I still don't think she did.
posted by klangklangston at 7:41 PM on September 26, 2013

I was at a small liberal arts college in Ohio. I had a very similar experience--groups of students in common rooms watching news, classes cancelled, students giving blood, a vigil, etc.

Two things I haven't seen in this thread that I experienced: 1) everyone at this very left leaning school suddenly became very patriotic. Flags were hung up in dorm windows, calls for solidarity, etc. 2) on Thursday (2 days after the attack) one of the frats had a huge party to "raise money for the Red Cross." Kids who had been so somber for the two days before were shouting and laughing and grinding against each other. I was disgusted. It was so disrespectful.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 8:39 PM on September 26, 2013

I was at Auburn University. I'd had an early class and was headed back into my dorm, and I passed a friend who said "You should go turn on the TV; a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center." I remember thinking, she must be confused. Sure enough, they were discussing whether it was an accident and who was on the plane...and then we watched the second plane hit on live TV. The newscasters were confused and thought for a moment that it was a replay, and then they were literally speechless. And then they kept the cameras on the towers until they fell, even though the footage was so horrific. It was so surreal and terrifying.

Most professors cancelled class, and even if they didn't, no one went. People camped out in the student center and common areas and watched the news all day. It was like everybody just stopped where they were when it happened and watched the nearest TV. I remember everyone grouping up/huddling together - no one wanted to be alone. We worried about what the next target would be, discussed what we (as a country) were going to do, who was behind the attacks, when/if things would ever be normal again, how long all of the planes would be grounded.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 9:27 PM on September 26, 2013

everyone at this very left leaning school suddenly became very patriotic. Flags were hung up in dorm windows, calls for solidarity, etc.

Yeah, our school paper's next issue had a full-page full-color flag intended for students to hang in their windows, and most rooms had one up. Seeing a flag in every window, it was like a bit of the home front from World War II got dislodged from time.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:34 PM on September 26, 2013

Central IL, I was a junior in college at the time. I always watched Headline News in the morning, and I had an early class that day, so I remember turning it on and seeing after the first tower had been hit but before it collapsed. I found it all rather shocking, and frankly was stunned for most of the day.

I called some friends but most of them didn't really seem to care as much as I did, so I stopped after a few. I have relatives within 3 hours of the NYC area, but none who work in the city regularly. Still, I worried about them because who knew, this might have been a day they traveled into the city (fortunately, everyone I knew was safe).

Most of my engineering professors continued on with class that day. Some said a few words about the attacks, but most just asked us to try to focus on the lesson. I can't remember going to any LAS classes... they might have been canceled. The Chancellor asked professors to take time later in the week to use their class time for reflection; I honestly don't remember what I did that day.

I've uploaded the emails sent to students around that time.

I lived off campus at the time, and don't recall attending any campus vigils, although I might have. Mostly I talked about it with my roommates and friends. And the television... that's the most vivid thing I remember; being glued to the television for the next couple days. I couldn't get enough news. If you've seen the South Park episode, I was 100% Stan Marsh's mother.
posted by sbutler at 10:19 PM on September 26, 2013

Addendum to my comment: as soon as the towers collapsed I remember thinking that war was now inevitable. Being of the right age, I wondered about Selective Service and whether there would be a draft. My roommate's mother called him up to make sure he didn't run out an enlist. He might have at the time, and he's pretty hippy/free spirited.
posted by sbutler at 10:26 PM on September 26, 2013

Response by poster: These answers are amazing and I ultimately plan to mark just about everything as "best." Please keep sharing.

Somebody sent me a private mefi mail message asking about my motives behind this question, and upon some reflection I think that it's only fair that I disclose why I asked. I'm working on a piece of futuristic fiction which involves a 9/11-scale attack that takes place while the protagonist is a college student. I do not intend to take personal details from anyone else's story as I create my fiction, but all the anecdotes you are sharing are helping me get into the head of the 21-year-old woman I'm writing about. They're also dredging up a hell of a lot of memories about the 23-year-old woman I was on that terrible day, and spurring a lot of reflections about the ways that the world, the country and my own situation have changed over the past dozen years.

My story from 9/11: I was a year out of college when the attacks took place, had lived in Portland for a few months, and many of my best friends were either still in school or had gone on to graduate programs at that point. I didn't have a car and had to wake up gawdawful early to take the bus to my shitty job, so I was already up and having breakfast when my mom called from the East Coast to tell me to turn on the TV. I woke up my nocturnal roommate, and opted to be half an hour late to work to watch the news. Brought a radio on the bus so I could follow the news at work, but it wasn't necessary. Other people brought TVs. I spent most of my work day on Sept. 11, 2001, breaking the rules of my shitty job, making unauthorized long-distance calls on my office phone to family members in D.C., friends in New York, and every person I loved everywhere in America. When I was in line for a veggie burger at the deli near my office, the woman in line in front of me got a phone call and then collapsed crying. She had not been able to reach her husband all day. He was on a business trip in New York, and finally got through to her cell to tell her he was OK. I cried on the bus. I cried when I got home.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:30 PM on September 26, 2013

My experience at MIT was a lot like Poegar's above, especially the image of half the people staring at televisions replaying the news and half going about their business. I specifically remember this from Lobby 10, where there were a couple CRT monitors hanging where the Lobby joins the Infinite Corridor, usually broadcasting white-text-on-blue announcements about totally mundane MIT issues. I'm pretty sure they were broadcasting CNN that day, and larger televisions were wheeled in later as the story developed.

Unlike the other MIT comments, I did have cancelled classes. My 8:30-10:00 class in one of the E buildings stopped in the middle and sent us home, professor's choice. In my dorm we all sat around in the lounge with the TV-on-a-cart. We also had free NYT in the dorm, and I had that one tucked away for quite a while.
posted by whatzit at 11:59 PM on September 26, 2013

I first started University in August 2000 at a University in the Chicago area.

>What was it like to live on campus at a residential U.S. college on Sept. 11, 2001?

It was... unusual. I woke up that morning and turned on the TV. I thought a drunken pilot had gone into a building. Things got real when the next one went through.

>How and when did news spread about the attacks?

We had a very, very large TV in our dining hall. People were watching it when I went to breakfast.

>How did students around you respond? Did people flood outside, gather in small groups indoors, congregate at television sets?

At first, everyone felt anxious. We weren't that far from Chicago, and they stopped all planes from flying. We were inbetween two airports, so planes flew above us ALL the time and the silence was creepy. Some people cried. I remember a lot of people ran out to get gas!

>Did professors cancel class, or set rigid attendance requirements?

They set the same attendance requirements as before. They had talks with us like 'I know you don't want to be here...' or 'It's really a tough day, but...'

>What was the mood like on that day and immediately afterward?

Anxious and busy, I think. I'm originally from The South and there were a lot of out of state students from country areas who all felt really anxious. People felt like they didn't know what to do. Everyone just sat around guessing about what would happen next, asking if we were all going to be next. I woke up every day for exactly a year thinking 'What if I die today?' My school was small, and I had to leave campus for something and it was awful. Cars were out honking at each other a lot and it just felt uncomfortable, so I stayed on campus for something like two months afterwards. Most of my friends went home on the weekend.

> How did the pulse and the life of the campus alter that day?

I don't remember much changing after the first month. There wasn't anything like 'OK, if we get attacked to this...' I just remember being scared a lot and weird-ed out at the lack of planes.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 3:24 AM on September 27, 2013

I was a sophomore at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, living in a dorm. I was getting ready for my 10am class when my roommate got a call from his mother on Long Island about the attack. I believe the conversation was "Knile, two planes just hit the World Trade Center." All I could think to say was "That's fucked up," chalking it up to horrible coincidence. By the time I left the suite that day, I THINK a bunch of people from our hall were watching the common TV. I went to class and everything there was fairly normal, though there was a faint buzz of "did you hear what happened?" That was my only class scheduled for Tuesday, and around the time I got back to the dorm after that, around 11, I believe classes were cancelled. Much of my hall (about 40-60 of us) was in the common area by this point, and lots of people were on their cell phones for non-emergency purposes, which I remember finding incredibly selfish. I went to work that afternoon at what was effectively a data entry position and carried on as normal. I don't really remember much else of the afternoon or evening, other than at some point in the day, a lot of people went to the neighborhood hospital to try to donate blood. There was some fear about our proximity to DC but it never felt quite warranted. Lots of students were from the New York area, and my hallmate's childhood neighbor died in the World Trade Center.

Through the rest of the week, I can distinctly remember three of my instructors starting a class with trying to open a discussion about how we were all doing, and being met with near-silence. The University changed a few policies, like no longer allowing parking in some areas due to fear of a truck bomb.

My suitemates tried to visit the Pentagon in the week after the attack, for some really macabre rubbernecking-tourism. They did not get very close to it, as you can imagine.
posted by knile at 5:31 AM on September 27, 2013

Note the consistent theme here that major universities all over the country, public and private, have very large contingents of students from the NY/NJ area. So even if you were at, say, University of Indiana, a lot of your classmates were going to be frantically calling home to make sure their family who worked in NY was ok. Multiple people I grew up with in suburban NJ, for example, ended up going to University of Delaware.
posted by deanc at 6:17 AM on September 27, 2013

I was a sophomore in college at a university in Illinois on 9/11. I remember waking up for an early morning class, and one of my roommates had the TV on. He said, "Some idiot just crashed their plane into the World Trade Center". I watched the reports for a few minutes and the ran off to take my Chemistry quiz. No one seemed worried at that early morning class. It was probably before the nature and magnitude of the situation was known/reported. After class though, I remember walking through our student union sometime after 10AM and every TV was tuned to news coverage. The university had brought in large mobile screens and were projecting the news coverage in some of the common areas. A lot of people were huddled by the screens watching in shock, and many people were crying. I can't remember if classes were cancelled for the afternoon, but I don't think I went. I just remember being glued to the TV all day. I do remember that later in the week, our Chemistry professor let us drop that quiz grade if we wanted.
posted by mockjovial at 6:52 AM on September 27, 2013

I was a sophomore in college in Duluth, MN. I didn't have a morning class, but woke up around 9 at my off-campus house. I checked my email and my AIM list. Everyone's away messages were dramatic and worrisome, so I ran downstairs to turn on the TV. My roommate and I watched the coverage. Some professors cancelled classes, some didn't.

Mine didn't, so I went to school a few hours later. I don't remember any congregated groups or crying or anything completely out of the ordinary that particular morning because people were still processing, and we were all pretty young. In one class, a professor handed out this sonnet, which still hangs on my wall, 12 years later.

Honestly, nothing much was altered on a large scale at school. (I was, of course, altered forever.) We went on with our lives. Our school, in northern Minnesota, felt very far away and like an enclave. We talked about in classes for a week, then got back to life. It never felt real that year.
posted by Zosia Blue at 7:41 AM on September 27, 2013

I am not a morning person, so I had rolled out of bed slightly late for my 9am class and was in that lost moment between wakefulness and sleep all morning. I remember my first professor making some perfunctory remark, "I suppose you've all seen the news this morning, and if anything else happens, I'll be sure to interrupt class and let you know..." As I hadn't watched the news, I had no clue was he was talking about, but we were soon lost in the minutiae of Renaissance Art History and I didn't think any further of it. My next class was philosophy 101 at 10:30, and the professor gave a short lecture about "I am a German and I feel very strongly about war, and I am saddened and shocked by what has been done this morning. I hope only that this act of cowardice won't effect anyone in this classroom." Again I still had no idea what was going on. I do remember as I was leaving the classroom, the halls were deathly quiet and all the students were huddled around the television in the public spaces, some crying, some stock still. I had to get to work, so I hurried on home to change and eat lunch. The first I knew about what happened was the phone ringing off the hook at my house. My girlfriend at the time worked for a three letter agency in Washington DC and was frantically trying to tell me she was all right, and all my relatives were calling to ask if she was okay. That was when I found out and finally stopped and looked at the TV.

I went to work and that night I went back to campus to work, I remember there were guards outside the SC state house and all the government buildings. I remember there were gates blocking me from entering campus until I showed ID, and I remember being constantly interrupted that night by officers checking why there were lights on in an otherwise quiet building, when normally this wouldn't have caused a second glance. I remember going out back for a smoke and being shocked at how quiet my city was without airplanes.

Classes weren't cancelled the next day, but professors gently reminded us that carrying around our art supplies, specifically X-acto knives, may not be such a hot idea any more. The campus itself was pretty quiet, with no political action, no speeches or other activity... at least until the start of the Iraq War, but that's another tale...
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:50 AM on September 27, 2013

I was a second-year in the UK. Classes don't typically start until late Sept here, so there would have been nobody in halls of residence/campus dorms, but we certainly watched the news come in in our student house. Rolling news didn't exist then unless you had Sky - so the majority of people saw it as a newsflash and then programming on BBC1 was switched to rolling news. A few people - myself included - who had not visited the city hadn;t actually heard of the WTC, as it wasn't a landmark in the version of New York we saw on TV and film, so it seemed sort of an odd choice - if you'd told me that terrorists had targeted NYC, I'd immediately have thought they'd have hit the Empire State Building or Liberty. (I guess for US readers to understand this - imagine there was a terrorist attack on The Shard or the Gherkin, huge, densely populated and locally iconic office buildings, when what comes to mind when you think of 'London buildings' , particularly those terrorists might destroy to make a point, are Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing St.)

My then-boyfriend worked in an office building on campus in staff administration, where there was no internet access. He knew nothing about it (it was 2pm when it happened here) until he came over after work. That would be difficult to achieve with even minor news events now.

I don't remember widespread paranoia about war until the Stop The War movement started in early 2003. The previous academic year (00-01) saw a huge controversy regarding the banning of Israeli goods, and the Islamic and Jewish societies were aggressively campaigning on campus. In 01-02, the Muslim societies were holding events and exhibitions to counter the Islamophobia that was starting to crop up in the UK. (Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in the UK, and Manchester had a high population of Muslims - the North West of England has a very high Muslim population too, and many Asian students chose to study in the city to be close to family.)
posted by mippy at 7:54 AM on September 27, 2013

It doesn't look like anybody in DC has weighed in, so I will.

I was a freshman at George Washington University - I'd only been in DC for maybe two weeks. I had a 8 AM class and a 9:15 class immediately afterward, so I wasn't near a TV until after everything had already begun. I didn't have a phone, so I had no idea anything was wrong until some students in my discussion pleaded with the TA to turn on the TV in our classroom. He wouldn't, and I assumed it was something minor, like a protest or something. (The big news on campus at that time was that we were going to close for a few days while protests were going on at the IMF, which is on GW's campus.) He did let us leave a few minutes early, since some students were beginning to freak out.

After class, I walked downstairs and ran into a girl from my French class, who finally told me that a plane had just hit the Pentagon. This was around 9:45, I think, so neither of the towers had fallen yet. We decided to head to the student center to watch CNN there, but we were turned away by campus PD, who were urging people to go back to their dorms. I found another friend who was heading back to our dorm, so I walked with him. We lived on Virginia Avenue, across from the Watergate. By the time I got back to my room, both of my roommates had the TV on, and there were probably 30 AIM messages on my computer asking if I was okay.

I'd been home probably 2 or 3 minutes before the first tower fell, and that's the point where I started to freak out. I'd never been to the Pentagon, but I'd been to the WTC (going to the top was my favorite memory of the trip), and seeing it just disappear was indescribably upsetting. I remember saying numbly, "But there were thousands of people in there," like my brain was refusing to process what it just saw.

Eventually my roommates and some of our friends decided to walk down to the Memorial Bridge to see what was happening at the Pentagon. I didn't go with them initially, since I was still trying to get through to family on the phone, but after they didn't come back for a while I went looking for them. On the way there, the streets were silent except for the occasional Humvee - silent streets in DC during the day is incredibly creepy, for the record. I didn't find my friends, but I got to the bridge and silently watched the huge black plume of smoke rising from the Pentagon.

Then I went home, took a shower and cried.

Our classes weren't cancelled the next day, because GW is full of assholes, but most of us didn't go anyway. I was paranoid walking around downtown for days, and I had to fly for the very first time the following week. Not the best way to start my college career, that's for sure.
posted by timetoevolve at 7:54 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

A roommate was in the National Guard. He started packing his bags that afternoon.

Does every college have a Memorial Union? Walking through the entrance with the name of all students who had died in past wars gained new poignancy. It ceased to be a historic artifact. The white space seemed to say, "There's room." The first new name went up in 2003.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:00 AM on September 27, 2013

I was a senior living on campus in a small college in southern California. By the time most students were awake, the attacks had already happened. The first to hear about it were students who got phone calls from family on the east coast. The rest of us found out when we entered the dorm lounges in the mornings and found people glued to the TV news. A lot of us were Slashdot readers (it was a science and engineering school) so we got a lot of information from the threads there while sites like the New York Times were overloaded or down.

There was a big orientation meeting that day for the student teams and company representatives who would be be working together all year on "clinic" projects. That included maybe half of the seniors at the school and a portion of the juniors. The meeting was not cancelled (I imagine it would have been near impossible to reschedule, given the number of organizations sending liaisons to it) but the organizers sent an email saying they understood if anyone could not attend for personal reasons. That message in my inbox when I woke up was my first clue that something unusual had happened, though it didn't include any more information. I don't remember whether any other classes were cancelled.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:58 AM on September 27, 2013

I was a sophomore at University of Michigan, living in a single. I woke up a little before my 9:10am English class, and immediately opened AIM to check everyone's witty away messages. A friend's away message was for everyone to turn on their TVs right now. I tuned in in time to watch the second tower get hit (I think? Or maybe just to see the news replay the first tower being hit over and over and over). I was pretty stunned and very socially stupid, so I just turned off the TV and went to class, which was not cancelled yet. It was probably about half empty. We had a very uncomfortable conversation/impromptu counseling session, and the professor announced that the rest of the day's classes were cancelled. On the way back, I ran into people who hadn't heard or seen anything yet, but knew something was wrong, and I filled them in. Back at the dorm everyone in my hall just sort of hung out in their rooms with the doors open watching TV (seeing the towers collapse over and over again on replay), calling friends and family.

There was a Tuesday night campus vigil. I think on Wednesday classes were back in session. There were emergency blood drives all over campus with lines several hours long. I do remember that at the Saturday football game (which seemed as well attended as usual), there was a crop duster or something violating the FAA air ban, and that things were generally very tense.

I had been born and raised in Michigan, and my entire family lived there, and the concept of people dying in New York and DC was very abstract for me - might as well have been across the world. I didn't seek out any vigils or try to process my feelings with other students. I was such a bastard that instead, I went to my professors office hours worried about making up the cancelled bio lab.
posted by twoporedomain at 9:19 AM on September 27, 2013

I went to college at the University of Tampa. I woke up late for class that morning and rushed from my apartment to school. When I got to school I found that everyone was just sort of milling around on campus and it was very quiet. I found my friends and asked them what was wrong, and one responded, "haven't you heard? We are like at war now." I spent several desperate hours trying to get in touch with my family (cell signal was down and my family lives right outside of NYC). I finally got in touch with them. They were okay.

We spent the rest of the day and the next day in the campus bar (classes were cancelled for 2-3 days), getting drunk and watching CNN non-stop. It wasn't getting drunk to party, it was for a lack of what to do otherwise. We all felt very helpless. I wasn't even 21 yet - the bartender didn't care.
posted by corn_bread at 9:26 AM on September 27, 2013

I was also at the University of Arizona at the time, living a block off campus. I was on a mostly nocturnal schedule at the time and no one thought to wake me up, so I didn't know anything had happened until around one in the afternoon. I got the five minute summary of what had transpired from my roommates before I had to run off to work. Walking through campus, I remember everything was very eerily quiet. No one was outside at all, except for a few of us walking silently from point A to B. It was a very strange for a college campus, for sure.

None of my tutoring appointments at work showed up that day, so I sat around with the other tutors for a few hours getting filled in on what had happened. I'm pretty sure every single tutoring appointment was a no-show that day. I had intended to spend the time between work and my late afternoon classes doing last-minute studying for a test I had that day, but I stayed at the tutoring center to talk more, instead. None of my classes were cancelled, but I got the feeling that no one was focused on studying or learning (the test was a disaster). The lecturers started class with about 5-10 minutes of discussion on that day and for the rest of the week, but otherwise academics carried on as normally as possible. I'm sure some classes were cancelled, but none that I knew of, so it definitely wasn't a given.

Our campus was under extensive construction at the time, and a lot of the mall area was surrounded by a large construction fence. That day or the day after, someone at the university covered the construction fence with large plywood boards painted white, and invited people to write their thoughts and feelings on the boards. That stayed up for a few weeks and was eventually taken down and archived somewhere. I remember feeling like the general atmosphere on campus turned political and divisive extremely quickly afterwards, possibly because of this board.
posted by everybody polka at 9:43 AM on September 27, 2013

Junior year, in my student duplex in Manhattan, just south of Harlem. Our building was built so the elevator lobby windows framed downtown, with the WTC in the center. I woke up to what sounded like a car backfiring, got out of bed at the second "boom." I went to the window and downtown was on fire.

My roommates were running up and down stairs, hunting for someone with a TV or radio, and a neighbor was hollering, "something hit World Trade." And then, "Something hit the Pentagon, it's an attack, we're under attack."

My roommate said, "how on earth does someone manage to attack the Pentagon?"
I said, "when the whole world is watching the WTC burn."
She said, "we're fucked, aren't we?"

We didn't know what to do. I wandered to my morning music studies class, and my professor apologized for "fiddling while Rome burns." Everyone was crying on and off, and eventually he just dismissed us.

I met up with friends; we tried to donate blood--but by then they didn't need any. I kind of gave up, wandered back home, watched the world burn from my window. Later, we ordered Chinese and watched the President speak, and sat on the library steps with candles. Everyone I knew had someone to hug and hold, but not me.

I didn't cry until New Years' Eve, half a country away, in the car with my mom. But then I cried for two days and couldn't stop.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:11 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was walking out to class when I passed forty-plus dormmates anxiously watching the TV. I stopped for a second, saw something on the news, then dismissed it out of hand because I didn't want to be late. I was headed to a music theory class - when I arrived, the professor walked in, said something about the tragedy in New York, and cancelled class. I was mystified, until I got back to my dorm to watch more of the news.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur - I really don't remember much else other than watching the news for most of the day. I remember barely making it to the cafeteria for dinner, though.
posted by chrisinseoul at 10:33 AM on September 27, 2013

I was at Berkeley at the time, and had been sitting in on an early class in another department (as opposed to just going to the lab first thing). It was an early class, and I had driven one of my flatmates to campus that morning. The first clue was NPR on the way in -- the first tower had fallen already and, while we were in the parking structure, the second tower collapsed.

My flatmate went off to her lab, and I went to my class. The prof, whom I knew personally though a collaboration, was a deeply empathetic man and he was unmoored. Class was cancelled with an injunction to "go home to your families, pray if you do that, take care of yourselves and each other." He might have been the first person I heard "and stay off the bridges" from. Like many of the other Bay Area reports above, I remember a clear directive to stay off the bridges and to stay away from the SF landmarks (and maybe even from the ALS up at LBL), but have no recollection of where or how this was communicated.

I walked over to my lab where we spent most of the day huddled around nervously, wondering about our labmate who had flown to England the day before. We were all checking CNN, when it would load, but I was checking MeFi and Slashdot, too. I think each of us tried to do some work at various times, but it was very quiet indoors. Certainly no one played any music, and people seemed to avoid working on noisy tasks.

I called my other flatmate to warn her that something was up, but she'd already turned on the TV and had seen far more than she wanted to. I'm grateful that I never was near a TV that day. I did get a call(? or maybe email? I think it was a call) from my dad on the east coast asking me to just go home.

From the lab windows, campus was pretty deserted. I don't think there was any official statement of cancellation (or not). It was the best kind of fall bay area weather - a beautiful, gorgeous crisp sunny fall day, with a high blue sky that was utterly empty.

The silence from the sky was alienating. It's hard to reconstruct, now, just how little we understood about the situation. How many planes were still unaccounted for? Where were they headed? How much fuel did they have? Were the bay area landmarks actually targets? There was the horror at what was actually happening on the other side of the country - 50,000 dead was being bandied about, but also the deadening uncertainty about whether (forgive me the phrase) that was it.
posted by janell at 10:37 AM on September 27, 2013

Senior at MIT. It was the first week of classes and the first day for a few of the classes. The planes hit the WTC during my first class of the day. It was a lab class. There were about 15-20 of us in the room. The prof. came in and said "Some planes have hit buildings in New York City." My lab partner was from either NY or NJ and was visibly alarmed. The lab computers, which were shit anyway, as they were only meant to run Lab View, were taking forever to load cnn.com. So, that class was pretty much shot, though the prof. encouraged us to keep working on the labs...

I went through the rest of my classes that day checking in on computers around campus, where possible. My only other significant memory from that day was another lab class, another first class and the mentor to our group looking over my shoulder as a couple of us were watching a shitty TV (possibly with rabbit ears) and said "Well, grad school applications will be up."

I remember very else little about that time except how quiet everything was in the days after the attacks. And the sky was so beautifully blue. I don't remember classes being cancelled at all, and doubt that they were. My dorm was small, so we probably had some people gathering in lounges. I remember talking to one friend and telling him that it was just scary and was making me feel that a plane could crash into any building near me. But, frankly, I had a ton of work to do, so didn't really have time to think about it.
posted by chiefthe at 11:31 AM on September 27, 2013

I was a freshman at UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago) at the time. I went to my 8am Calculus class and returned back to my dorm room at around 9:20ish. My roommate and a few friends from down the hall were watching TV in my room. When I came in he said "Have you seen this shit?!"

Classes were canceled the rest of the day and I kept peering my head out the window to see if there was going to be a plane that would hit the Sears Tower.

I heard rumors too that a plane crashed into the space needle in Seattle.
posted by wcfields at 11:45 AM on September 27, 2013

I was a junior at Vanderbilt, and I was sorting the mail at my work-study job in the English department. I heard the department secretary say, "Oh, my god," hang up the phone, and turn on the ancient, tiny tv with rabbit ears that lived in the corner of her office. We were watching live reporting and didn't know it if was a terrible accident or a terrorist attack when the second plane hit. I sat down on the floor in her office to watch as most of the department faculty crowded around the set. Folks from the History department downstairs didn't have a tv, and many of them came to watch the news, too. No one cried, but everyone was shocked and quiet. We watched the news for at least two hours.

Though Vandy's in the southeastern US, I knew a lot of students from New York and DC. I remember that the faculty and staff were worried about them and trying to get them support. I don't think classes were canceled, though.
posted by zoetrope at 12:39 PM on September 27, 2013

I was living in the dorm at Montana State University in Bozeman. I hadn't bothered to hook up my TV yet but the first thing I did when I woke up was to log into Yahoo Messenger. The guy I was supposed to go on a date with that night messaged me and told me that a plane had crashed into the WTC. I told him he was full of shit and that wasn't a funny joke. He told me to turn on my TV. I set it up and turned it to CNN (I think).

This was between the first and second crashes. I saw the second one live on TV. I abandoned the chat with him and later canceled our date (he was a jerk about this). I watched TV until after the towers fell - I couldn't watch any more and I went down the hall to take a shower. I started sobbing in the shower (I didn't know anyone in NYC, it was just a general horrified reaction) and someone asked me what was wrong. So I was the way that she found out. She didn't believe me either.

I vaguely remember going to a class for about five minutes and then everyone left. Lots and lots of people were crowded around TVs in the student union; it seemed like no one wanted to be alone. Lots of people crying. Sometime in the late afternoon I went back to my dorm; people were in the lobby watching a TV that had been specifically brought in.

The mood was definitely edgy, angry and scared, but I don't remember anyone that feared being attacked in Montana. We were all just waiting for the other shoe to drop, for another attack somewhere in the country. We expected an all-out war with... somebody. There was plenty of anti-Arab sentiment on campus but I don't remember any Arab students at all (MSU is overwhelmingly white) so there was no one to attack.

There must have been memorials and such but I don't really remember them. I vaguely recall a candlelight vigil but I don't know if it was for 9/11. Montana is full of "Real Americans" to begin with (lots of farmers and cowboys) but everyone became Extra Patriotic. Flags everywhere.

I graduated that December and flew home to the midwest. There were military personnel with rifles at the tiny little airport in Bozeman; it was surreal and scary and my first real contact with the consequences of the attack. I changed planes in Chicago and it felt like stepping into another world.
posted by desjardins at 1:20 PM on September 27, 2013

I heard rumors too that a plane crashed into the space needle in Seattle.

Oh yeah, the rumors... I remember hearing repeatedly that the Sears Tower had been hit.
posted by desjardins at 1:21 PM on September 27, 2013

I was a freshman in chemistry class at Johns Hopkins when it happened, and if anyone knew within the hour, they didn't say anything. [Cell phones were much less common then, so it seems likely no one knew.] Then I went to calculus class at 10am, where the professor opened with "I know you all don't want to learn calc right now, you want to discuss the world trade center, but we're going to learn anyway" but without any additional context I kind of shrugged it off as "it's the first week of school and we're all freshmen and she knows we aren't that focused" or something. Eventually, when I tried to go to my third class of the day at 11am, I found out what had happened ["the WTC has been hit by a plane," I think] because the building was locked and there were swarms of people outside and someone told me that all classes were cancelled.

Back at the dorm, we gathered in the lounge and watched TV--mostly footage of the plane hitting the towers on repeat, and my friend remarked that each time she kept silently, illogically willing the plane to just turn a few degrees instead of hitting the building. People speculated about whether we were in danger since no one really knew the motive and our school is a center of science research and maybe that would be a terrorist target for some reason. People tried to call their parents - a lot of kids were from NY or the surrounding areas - but the phone lines were mostly busy. [Within the week, the school decided to give everyone free voicemail service on their dorm phone lines to help people keep in touch if something like this happened again.] Eventually my RA decided we needed a distraction and she popped a DVD of Jackie Chan's Rush Hour into the lounge TV in lieu of the repeating news footage. It felt very weird to be watching comedy while shit was going on, but we acknowledged that there wasn't much else to do. We were still at that early-college stage where freshman walked around in big packs with their dormmates.

At dinner my nerdy friends discussed whether one could build a plane-proof building. Later we played a bunch of pool - in concert with the RA's urging us to do things that would take our minds off of the upsetting stuff that we didn't really have details of anyway.

I feel like the rest of the semester, and maybe year, and maybe even my whole college career, were kind of dampened by what happened. It's hard to say for sure without an exact comparison, but things seemed so bright and uncomplicated when I was in high school, and the economy was OK, and then within the first week of college the world closed in a lot and things grew somber.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:29 PM on September 27, 2013

This question made me dig up an old journal that I used to write in daily from that time. I was a senior at TU in Oklahoma at the time, set to graduate that December. I found out the same way a lot of others did, by seeing it on a TV in the lobby of one of the lecture halls. I was running late to a 9:30 class having woken up not much earlier, and I remember whizzing past all the students gathered in the lobby outside the hall and being briefly relieved that I wasn't the only one who was late, not even registering all the student heads craned toward the TV or the silence. When I realized no one was inside the hall, I joined the other students in the lobby to see what was going on.

Our professor hadn't seen the news yet either, she was also running late and I remember her going straight into the hall and upon realizing that no one was inside, coming back out into the lobby. She seemed a bit annoyed by this, until she saw what we were all looking at. I don't remember how long we all stood there in silence. I don't remember if she called us into the hall or if we all just eventually shuffled in there, but we all sat for a dazed moment before she dismissed us, telling us to go home, watch the news and count our blessings.

I had a studio class later that afternoon, and our professor said we were welcome stay for the session if we needed distraction or clarity, but we were also free to leave if we wanted. Not all of the students had shown up anyway, and a few more left after that. I stayed. Other than that, I don't recall any other classes being cancelled or delayed.

I can really only vouch for the students I was friends with since I lived in an apartment at the time, I wasn't as aware of the on-campus feel other than everything was quieter, subdued. There were a lot of candlelight vigils, a lot of prayer services. I remember local news reporting that churches in Tulsa were over capacity for these services, which is saying a lot for a town with a church on every corner. I didn't attend any of them, I remember spending the evening of the 11th at my parents house since they lived nearby. The friends I had at the time reacted a lot the way I did, so I found a lot of solace in being with them. I was unspeakably stunned. I couldn't cry, or process things for awhile...I had no family or friends in NY, but the constant news loop, which I fed into for the first few days after had rendered me emotionless, something I wrote about a lot. It seemed like a lot of people around me were reacting (students, authority figures, etc.) but since I wasn't, it felt better to hang with the people I knew who felt the same. There were a lot of somber pints drank just sitting there at the bar and looking at each other, the same "what the fuck" expressions on our faces.

My apartment at the time was in a flight pattern, near the airport, and the absence of the planes was disturbing. It was even more disturbing when they started back again, the sound that used to be comforting to me and told me that I was home, now sounded scary and uncomfortable. I had recurring dreams about plane crashes pretty much for the rest of the semester.

Other tidbits I remember: Every business in town that had a marquee had a patriotic message on it by nightfall. I took pictures of some of them, even the one in front of the strip club. I remember people rushing to fill up gas tanks, I remember a lot religious people saying this was the beginning of the end of the world. The company I was interning with at the time laid off about half their creative staff a month later, and while it could have just been bad timing, most everyone in the company attributed it to a crazy decline in sales because of 9/11.
posted by pandalicious at 3:05 PM on September 27, 2013

In terms of the period after, I'm not sure if things were any different on campus than they were in the rest of the city or for most of America (other than the areas directly hit). There was sort of a vague fear that any large event (such as the SuperBowl that was held in New Orleans the following year) was a potential target, but I think everyone felt that. Honestly when I think back to my freshman year I often forget that 9/11 was right at the beginning of it. However since I was in grad school also at Tulane when Katrina hit, on the grand scheme of "major shit that affected my life in school," Katrina is much more salient.

This is going to sound self-centered, but the biggest thing that affected me was air travel. It's a four-hour flight between San Francisco and New Orleans, and suddenly that trip became A LOT longer and with a lot more hassle. I remember taking an early-morning, last-minute flight in January 2002 to go to a funeral in SLC. I was really tired and out of it, and I got hassled by Security for wearing boots and trying to bring my coffee past the scanners.
posted by radioamy at 5:09 PM on September 27, 2013

I was a Junior at Florida State University, sitting in my Nonparametric Statistics class when one of the other students left with her phone. She came back in to tell us what happened. I think we finished class after that. I had two more classes scheduled that day but by that point none of us knew what was going on. Eventually we heard that classes were cancelled for the rest of the day. I had been dropped off at school by one roommate and had class with another one that was supposed to be my ride home. I didn't have a cell phone or my house keys. I ended up hitching a ride home from a friend of someone I barely knew from my Spanish class. They dropped me off at my apartment and I had to throw rocks at my roommate's window to wake her up. We ended up spending the rest of the day watching TV. When we heard about the plane in PA, I frantically called family members who live in the Pittsburgh area because I didn't know where Shanksville was or how close it was to them.
posted by Nolechick11 at 6:01 PM on September 27, 2013

I was at art school in Santa Fe, NM. A friend was visiting from Oklahoma, on her way to LA.

I remember in the morning, my RA saying I should come see what was on TV in his room. And we sat there watching it all go down on TV.

My friend's mom freaked out, and suggested she go back to Oklahoma. My friend pointed out she lived near an army base (at the time, everything seemed like a target). Her mom didn't want her to go to LA (big west coast target), so it was "Stay where you are!". My friend pointed out she was right by Kritland Air Force base. The mom didn't know what to do.

If classes weren't cancelled, nobody went, certainly. There was a "community forum" (it was a small school) in which people were invited to vent their thoughts and feelings. One guy talked about aliens and how we could transcend this terror by taking enough acid.

There was a lot of cuddling among people who didn't usually cuddle. A lot of just kind of numbly standing around wondering what was going on.
posted by colin_l at 6:33 PM on September 27, 2013

I hope my recollection is accurate: I was a sophomore, 19, at a University of California school. My roommate got a phone call, waking us both up, but all she said after hanging up was, "Two planes crashed?" It wasn't til a few minutes later, when our suitemates asked to turn on the TV in our room, that we realized the horrifying truth.

I went to class because I didn't know what else to do. Several profs in the dept were from the East Coast so there was a degree of anxiety in the air. In my first class that day, the instructor said he completely understood if we preferred to leave, but most of us stayed. We spent the time discussing what little we knew, and speculating (most people had already figured it was likely to be Bin Laden, he had possibly claimed credit for it by then).

Attendance was pretty normal in both classes. At my second class, though, the professor came in and began lecturing as though absolutely nothing had happened. At first, I was incredulous, and wondered if he even knew, but none of the other students said anything, and followed his lead; We carried on as usual for the entire hour and a half. He was one of the East Coasters, so I did wonder if it was a coping mechanism or something.

The rest of the afternoon, I think I walked around campus a bit, where things were unusually quiet and subdued. There were a lot of people around, everyone completely sober. I exchanged phone calls with my family. Back in the dorms, I instant-messaged my college and high school friends (mostly in different schools in the same state) for hours, while refreshing news web sites obsessively. I don't think I watched much TV after the first half hour of the day, though, as it all got pretty sickening really quickly.

At the time I didn't know anyone in NYC except my uncle, and I knew he was OK. It was hard feeling so helpless, so far away and so very ignorant, my not having had the slightest idea until that day such things were possible. I feel like I must have been in a daze for weeks thereafter.
posted by estherbester at 9:31 PM on September 27, 2013

It was a very clear, sunny day. I was a freshman at a small school in upstate NY, and I particularly remember how surreal the news seemed--we had lovely skies and rolling hills, and we were several hours away, and it did not seem as though anything could be "really" wrong. But some of my classmates were from NYC and most were from New York State, so the fear was very tangible. We did gather around TVs, and I remember there was one exchange student who did not understand English very well--we tried to find a radio station in her language to help her get more information. Some professors canceled classes and I remember a few crying. Mostly I remember that feeling of surrealism and dissonance.
posted by epanalepsis at 1:18 PM on September 28, 2013

I was a junior at a smallish state school in Little Falls, NJ. We could look out the windows of our campus apartment and see the Manhattan skyline just(ish) across the river.

What's strange to me, looking back, is how many gaps are in my memory of that day and week. I have some memories that are extremely distinct, but other things that I know must have happened or that I must have seen are just, gone.

I was sleeping late that day and found out about the attacks when my mom phoned. I picked up, muttered a "hello", and she shouted "The country is under attack, turn on your tv!" Then, a memory blank. I don't remember what my roommates and I did immediately after we found out. I do remember that we looked out the windows and watched the smoke, and I remember scrambling for my computer afterward and logging onto IRC to check in with my scattered group of friends. There were a number of us who lived in either the DC or NYC areas, and we spent the day keeping track of who had checked in and was safe, and who we weren't sure of yet. Since we were being fed by five or ten different news services, as well, we passed news and rumours of news back and forth from Canada to London to New York to California. Some of it turned out to be true, some not so much.

I remember, later in the day, speaking to my roommates and hearing stories of people's family members/friends who had been in the towers that day. I suspect it was mostly frantic gossip we were hearing, rather than actual stories, because cell service was a no-go and phone lines in general were clogged and it seems unlikely that everyone would have heard from their loved ones and then had enough time to pass the story down the line to a bunch of girls who didn't know any of them personally. But I do distinctly remember hearing stories of what we might insensitively think of as 9/11 tropes these days - the person who was on the phone to their loved one from a tower stairwell when the buildings came down, the person who called to say they wouldn't make it, the person who called to say they were ok but then couldn't get out. Cell phones figured heavily in what we were hearing (and in fact, my mother shortly thereafter insisted that I get a cell phone, because they had been so vital in the time of emergency).

My memories of that day really are mostly centered on a panicked sense of going down a mental list of everyone I knew who could have been there when the planes hit, and making sure I spoke to or heard of the safety of everyone on that list. The people I spoke to mostly seemed to be doing the same. We were so close to NYC, and at a school mostly attended by people from the area, so everyone knew someone, or knew someone who knew someone, or was the someone, who ended up with a name not checked off on that mental list.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 4:51 PM on September 28, 2013

Please file under "better late than never" --

Earlier in this thread, I posted about my experiences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a school that has a large population of students from New York and the East Coast. Often, these students also happen to be Jewish -- for good reason; UW-Madison has a long history of accepting and encouraging Jewish students when many other universities didn't.

In my comment, I said, "there's a pretty well-documented Coastie (read: rich, Jewish, daddy's money) v. Sconnie (Midwestern, corn-fed, cheap beer, yada yada) rivalry." In my view, the whole point of the Coastie/Sconnie rivalry is that a bunch of stupid stereotypes and assumptions keep people from mixing into each other's social circles and understanding each other a little better. I was having a crap day and meant for those sweeping generalizations to come out as sarcastic and dismissive of these stereotypes in a situation where it was clear that EVERYONE was affected.

Unfortunately, it came off to some people as pretty cringeworthy, particularly toward Jewish people. A MeFite whose opinion I respect called me out on it, and I really appreciate that. I apologize for tossing off a statement like that so flippantly, and it's a good reminder to pay more attention.

Anyways, by the time I responded to my friend, there were something like 45 ensuing comments, and now there are 71. But I thought I'd say something anyway, because that comment makes me sound really intolerant and mean. I'm not. (Mostly.)

Thanks; as you were.

posted by Madamina at 7:23 AM on October 2, 2013

I was a returning student at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, a moderate-sized California public school. 9/11 happened during the week before our school started, but I was living in town because I was a volunteer group leader for the week-long new student orientation program.

Being on the west coast, I first heard about the (first?) plane strike from a friend who called my apartment to tell me and my room-mate that "the US is under attack." This baffled us both, and we didn't have cable to tune into news at that time, but I think we might have gone online to check out what we could find.

I went on with my day, and I went to my co-leader's house to plan some of the events for the day with our group of incoming students. We had the TV on in her house, and the same footage was playing on repeat. I didn't have any family or friends who could have been in danger, and I don't think my co-leader did, either, so the news just washed over us, seeming unreal.

There were moments of silence and remembrance during that orientation week, and I remember going to a craft store for some supplies and the lady in front of me bought one of the last little cheap plastic US flags they had, and the cashier commented that the lady showed up just in time. At that moment, I could not fathom why flags were suddenly so popular.

I can't recall many more concrete moments from that week. It feels like a blur of flashy news coverage.

My room-mate back then was an Afghan, though his family comes from the eastern, more round-faced Mongol side of the country, so I'm told. I know he didn't wear his nationality on his sleeve, and I don't think he was ever harassed for his heritage, but we had a lot of interesting discussions that year and in the years to follow.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:01 AM on October 10, 2013

« Older Where to live in the south Seattle area?   |   Fee-based financial planner in NYC for... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.