Sept. 11, 2001: Five Years Later‘Like everyone, I watched television nonstop for days, trying to understand what happened.’

“I remember that day very clearly. It was my son’s fourth birthday. After my son opened his presents, my husband said that someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center. I thought it was a small passenger plane and no big deal and went out for a bike ride.

“When I got back, my husband had the news on. I still remember exactly what it said on the TV screen: ‘America under attack. Both World Trade Center Towers fall.’ I stared at the television in disbelief. I spent much of the day crying. My son didn’t understand why I was so sad when it was his birthday. It was several years before I thought it was OK to celebrate his birthday on Sept 11.”

— Inger Thompson,
Psychology Department Chair,
Associate Professor of Psychology

“I woke up and watched the events on the NBC ‘Today’ show. I tuned in a few minutes before the third plane hit the Pentagon. My wife and I were very sad for the victims in NYC and D.C. and concerned about what else could happen. Listening closely to the car radio, I drove to downtown Los Angeles to start work but, during my commute, my secretary called my cell phone to tell me that my law firm had decided to close for the day — my partners had taken the unprecedented step of sending all 350 attorneys and the staff home.

“I met my wife in Montrose, where we went to a restaurant for an early lunch, but we did not eat much. A few days later, I learned that some of my law partners had lost friends in 2 World Trade Center, the home of one of our clients.”

— Victor I. King,
GCC Board of Trustees

“I was at home shaving and otherwise getting ready for the day ahead when I heard the early reports on KFWB Newsradio that an airplane had crashed into one of the towers. I recall that the first reports treated it as an aviation accident instead of a terrorist incident. In fact, I remember the early word out of New York was that it appeared to be a private plane or maybe a small commuter jet that had crashed into the World Trade Center.

“By the time I got to work the second plane had hit and it had become obvious that this was no accident. I remember thinking that the disaster was perhaps the work of the same type of home-grown crazies who had bombed the Oklahoma Federal Building a few years earlier.

“It was sort of a distracted day here at the college (the attack was a huge topic of conversation by mid-day), but I think Dr. [John] Davitt did the right thing in not cancelling our classes. I think we draw comfort and strength by going about our usual duties.”

— Mike Eberts,
Professor of Mass Communications

“I was awakened on Sept. 11, 2001, by a call from a friend telling me about the events. Of course, I turned on the television to see for myself. I seem to remember it was a Tuesday, and I wasn’t sure if I should go to the college to teach my classes or not. I can’t remember if we closed the college that day or not, it is such a blur. Like everyone, I watched television nonstop for days, trying to understand what happened. The sense of tragic loss of thousands was compounded by the fact that my father had died just a few days before Sept. 11. I felt like the whole world was mourning with me, and I was mourning with everyone.”

— Mona Field,
Professor of Political Science

“I started to hear reports of the planes crashing into the World Trade center on the car radio after I dropped off my children to school. By time I got to work I had a call from my daughter’s day care center saying that, because they were so close to JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), and that they thought that JPL could be a terrorist target, they were closing the day care for the day, and would I kindly come up and get her. So I turned around and got my daughter Sarah, and she spent the day with Dad at the college.

“I recall most vividly seeing groups of stunned students standing in front of the television monitors outside the bookstore, some in tears. I remember also, the total lack of airplanes in the sky except for military aircraft. There was a sense of bewilderment all over. What terrible thing is going to happen next?”

— Dennis Doyle,
Reading Specialist

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

— Winston Churchill

“Perhaps the best reflection of the shock we felt was in my daughter Tara’s behavior on that fateful day. We had woken up just past 7 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 11, not to our alarm clock, but to the alarmed voice of my brother. We turned on the television just in time to watch the replays of the collapse of the South Tower, followed by the live destruction of the North Tower. For the next hour, these scenes played over and over again in our living room. When it came time to take Tara to her preschool, we could barely peel ourselves from the television.

“The school was abuzz in hushed conversations, parents trying their best not to interrupt or inhibit the school’s opening ceremony, but needing reassurance themselves in a now uncertain world. As we prepared to leave, Tara became increasingly agitated and attached to us. She had never behaved this way before. It became clear to us that she, along with many of her classmates, had wholly absorbed the shock, terror, and disbelief that their parents were experiencing. As we drove away from school, I knew that no one, no matter how young, had been spared the shock of that catastrophe.

“All that week, I drove home along roads lined with Americans of all backgrounds holding candlelight vigils, sharing this moment of sorrow and loss.

“Later, I was to learn that a fellow graduate school classmate at UCLA had perished on United 175. Though this was the closest I would personally come to feeling the great loss on that day, I knew that the loss would reverberate in all our thoughts and actions, individually and collectively, for a very long time.”

— Dr. Vahe Peroomian,
GCC Board of Trustees

“I was getting ready to come to the college when I saw CNN’s broadcast of the plane hitting the first tower. At first, I thought it was a preview of a new summer action movie. I didn’t make it to work that day, as I watched the whole horrible thing unfold before my eyes!”

—Lynn McMurrey
Associate Professor of Dance

I was at home getting ready for a day of work at East Los Angeles
College. I saw the events unfolding on the “Today Show,” as it was my habit to watch that show every morning. Like most of world, I was shocked at the events as they unfolded.

The loss of life, magnitude of the destruction, and the fact that anyone could hate on that scale were all reminders of the dangers of the world in which we live. Yet, this was equaled and surpassed by the capacity of the human spirit to reach out and to offer support and healing. One cannot help but be touched by the tremendous acts of heroism and selflessness that also mark this tragic day. We may live in a world fraught with danger but there is also hope and a help available when we are brave enough to ask for it.

—Kathleen Burke-Kelly
GCC Board of Trustees