Remembering 9/11: UT Faculty, Staff Recall the Day of the Terrorist Attacks

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KNOXVILLE— September 11, 2001, was one of those days you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the awful news.

On that day, nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger jets. They crashed two planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and crashed a third plane into the Pentagon near Washington, DC. The fourth plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field when the passengers attempted to wrest control away from the terrorists. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks.

Here, three UT faculty and staff members recall what they were doing on September 11, 2001:

Sandra LykeSandra Lyke

Lyke, now an administrative assistant in UT Career Services, was a student at UT on 9/11.

“Like many people, I awoke and started my day by turning on the news,” she said. “As I watched the television in rapt horror that day, forgetting class obligations, forgetting to finish getting dressed, forgetting my breakfast on the counter, a copy of Mark Juergensmeyer’s Terror in the Mind of God was sitting next to me on the couch.”

The book was assigned reading in one of Lyke’s classes, Religious Peace and Violence, taught by Professor Rosalind Hackett in religious studies.

“Osama bin Laden’s picture was on the cover, along with religious terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Shoko Asahara,” she recalled. “Because I’d read the book, I was in the unique position of being one of the few everyday Americans who had heard of bin Laden.”

Lyke said the events of 9/11 made taking that class that semester an unforgettable experience.

“We discussed what led up to the attacks and the response that followed,” she said. “It became the most meaningful and important class that I took at UTK. UT will always be a significant part of my memories of 9/11, and I am most grateful to have had Dr. Hackett’s wisdom and perspective during a scary time.”

Fr. Charlie DonahueFr. Charlie Donahue

Now pastor at John XXIII Catholic Center on the UT campus, Donahue was interning in the Clinical Pastoral Education Program at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC on September 11, 2001.

“I am from New York City, and worked often with and for people in the World Trade Center. My twenty-fifth and thirtieth birthday dinners were at Windows on the World, the amazing restaurant at the top of the Towers,” he said. “Throughout the day of the terrorist attacks, I was crestfallen and fearful for friends that I feared had been in the building and might not make it home ever again.

“Meanwhile, at the hospital in Washington, DC, across the loudspeakers was called CODE ORANGE over and over again. Most people barely knew what this meant— ‘National Emergency: be prepared for major and many traumas.’ Later, according to the unit manager, the last time that code had been called was at the assassination of President Kennedy nearly fifty years earlier,” he said.

“Hundreds of cots, beds, and poles were set up in conference rooms and hallways in addition to open rooms. As the news trickled in, we were prepared for hundreds of injured from the Pentagon. But, like the hospitals in New York City, the patients never made it.

“We got only a few injured, some traumatically and near death. The other victims never even made it the hospital.”

Angela MillsAngela Mills

Mills, now senior director of alumni chapters and outreach for the UT Alumni Association, had started working at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, in early November 2001, two months after the attacks.

“I got the opportunity to work the Concert for America at the Kennedy Center, a program that aired on the first anniversary of 9/11,” she said.

The concert saluted the victims and heroes of 9/11. President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush were there. The program was hosted by Tom Brokaw and featured the National Symphony Orchestra, directed by Leonard Slatkin, with celebrity guests that included Aretha Franklin, Gloria Estefan, Placido Domingo, Alan Jackson and Enrique Iglesias.

Even with all of the notables in attendance, “the other people were really who struck me the most—the family members of those who had passed, the burn victims from the Pentagon, and the local men and women who had been the responding police, EMTs and firefighters,” Mills said.

“One of the most memorable things about that evening, for me, was talking with the gentleman who was the last firefighter pulled out alive from the Twin Towers,” she said.

“It was an incredibly moving night and was humbling to be part of such an emotional event that honored those who had lost so much on that unforgettable day.”

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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