Berry Community Remembers 9/11

Elisabeth Martin, Campus Carrier Features Editor

Jamison Guice, Campus Carrier Asst. Features Editor

 

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Students gather in the college chapel for an interfaith event on September 11, 2001. Photo courtesy of Campus Carrier archives

Rev. Erin Moniz, Assistant Chaplain

 

“I was a junior here at Berry. I had a really unique position because my on campus job was being a TA for one of the professors in the religion department. President Scott Colley decided to have a gathering in the main college chapel on campus. At the time, he had recruited a couple of different people to offer prayers and offer grief, and represented different religions. This was very much an interfaith event. I had gone into work that day. I had gone to see [the professor] and the anti-Muslim narrative hadn’t become a really strong feature yet. But I just remember talking to him and he said, ‘I’ve been asked to write a prayer for this thing that is happening tonight. I need you to write it. And I’ll look at it. And I don’t want you to use the word “Allah.” This is for everyone, so we need to make the prayer open to everyone. Use very generic language in it, like “God” and things that are much more inclusive. And then, write your heart.’ So as a Christian student writing for this Muslim professor, I wrote this prayer, and then he went and delivered it. I wasn’t even at the event. I heard about it later, and I had a lot of friends who were there. There was all of this controversy; people got up and walked out. People’s emotions were so heavily charged. It was this huge event and worlds sort of collided in that moment: A Muslim was giving a prayer in a chapel, which they consider a sacred space, and that was just so offensive to them. And I was like, ‘I wrote that prayer.’ I have a file of letters people sent to the President’s Office, and the Chaplain’s Office. All of these people got really angry. The other side also got really angry, like ‘hey, what are you doing? We are all here grieving.’ So there are two sides hurting very much, but at complete odds with each other. And suddenly that was the story. We debated it for the next month on campus.”

 

Chelsea Mazies, Senior

“I was five, and we were actually having my birthday party. My uncle Rich, Richard Flicker, he is a stockbroker on Wall Street. He was on the 25th or 26th floor of the first tower [when the plane crashed into the building]. He said it was an incredible hit, as you must imagine, and shortly thereafter, they were saying ‘Stay in your seat, hold tight.’ At that point, he looked out the window and he could see the plane sticking out of the tower, and said ‘we’re gonna have to go.’ His floor evacuated, but he couldn’t use the elevators because fuel from the plane was pouring down them. So they used the stairs. When he got out of the building, there was so much debris falling that he grabbed a flower pot at the end of the street, dumped it out, and put it over his head because didn’t want to get knocked out from all the stuff… He had sent many of his friends and former workers up to the top floor to work that morning, and they all died. So it was a really, really hard time for him. He had to walk five miles to get out of the city and his wife (my mom’s sister) didn’t know where he was for twelve hours. There was no phone connection so she didn’t know if he was dead or if he made it out. But his was the last floor to make it out of the first tower.”

 

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President George Bush at the site of ground zero. Photo courtesy of cabin log archives

Thomas Shipman, Chemistry Lab Supervisor

“I spent a year in Iraq in 2004 to 2005 back when it was really dangerous. On the day of 9/11, I was going to work. I was on the west coast; I was living in Oregon at the time. At the time the first plane hit, people didn’t know. I was like ‘wow, that’s crazy, that’s a huge building that the plane hit,” and then the second plane hit. I thought “what does this mean?’ My wife, later on that day, she said ‘well, it means you’ll be going overseas.’ I went to work that day, I worked for the National Guard, and we did nothing for work. We turned the TV on and watched the events unfold. I was in the National Guard but our unit got called up and we went to Fort Hood and lived there for four to five months. Then we went to another training site, and then we went to Baghdad for about a year. We did our job there, and then when I got back, I decided I didn’t want to work for the National Guard as a civilian, as somebody who had to work for them. I wanted to go to college instead. And about halfway through my time getting my degree, I was in a National Guard unit in Georgia, at this point, and they said “we’re going to Afghanistan.” While I was there, I talked to a guy, who was older than me, I asked him ‘so what made you go back in?’ He said ‘I had two cousins that were in the tower that day.’”

 

Kathy Wilson, Secretary of English, Rhetoric and Writing, World Languages and Cultures

“As I was heading to the high school to drop something off for one of my kids, I heard on the radio that… that it actually was a current attack, and not only that, but there was a plane that went down in Somerset County. Pennsylvania. The plans for the terrorists were for it to go to a larger objective, but the brave people on the plane were willing to bring the plane down at the cost of their own lives, in Somerset county in a rural area, so it did less damage to the people on the ground. Interestingly enough, or scary enough, if the plane would have fallen on the ground five minutes earlier, it would have been in the county where I lived, Bedford County.”

 

Denny Rivera, Freshman

“I would wake up and start crying for my mom to feed me at a very specific time, and my mom would get up, and feed me, and I would go to work with her because she had no one to watch me. My mom worked in the north building. So that was her routine every single morning. On the morning of 9/11, that one particular morning she had to go there in the morning. Usually her shifts were in the afternoon, so she never had a reason to be there in the morning. But this one day, this very day, she had to go there in the morning to sign some papers. So, that one morning, I didn’t wake up. I didn’t wake up crying that morning, I stayed asleep through that time. So she didn’t wake up either. So she finally did eventually wake up, but she was like ‘I’m not going to bother my child until she wakes up.’ So she decided not to go into work. But then she’s watching the news, and seeing all of this go down, and she’s like ‘If Denny had woken up, I would have fed her, I would have went to that building,’ and she would have been on one of the higher floors that got directly hit, and I would have been there too. So that one morning, I didn’t wake up, she didn’t go to work.”

 

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Dr. Jennings’ badge issued by the American Red Cross that granted him access to ground zero. Photo courtesy of Dr. Jerry Jennings

Dr. Jerry Jennings, Professor of Psychology

 

“In October of 2001, I left a couple of days before President Bush showed up at the site. I was there for eight days. I got trained as a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Volunteer prior to going. They flew me up to New York. I volunteered for the midnight to 8:00 a.m. shift at this respite center that was a block away from ground zero, where we had a logistics area where the people working the pile could get clothes and new shoes and stuff because the pile had a pretty acrid smell. You could tell somebody had been working the pile because they had that smell about them. [The center] was a St. John’s University satellite center, so the upstairs classrooms had cots and the people working the sites could stay overnight. We had internet access so people could contact family, because a lot of those people were devoted to getting their colleagues who died at the site. So they were not about to leave. They spent day and night at the site and then were back hunting for their dead comrades. Regularly during that time, they’d find somebody and they would drape the body with an American flag and bring them out. There were ministers on call who would come out and administer last rites at the site. My role was to be of good listening ear for the firemen and the policemen and the public works people — all of the people working at the site. They were sifting through the site and hauling off stuff that went across the river. There were federal agents everywhere surveying the damage for any information they could get about the perpetrators. It was a pretty emotional time for everybody who worked there.”

 

Cecily Crow, Director of Student Activities

“In 2001 I was working at Greensboro College in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s a small, Methodist college of about 1,000 students. I was Assistant Dean of Students. It was a Tuesday, a beautiful day. That morning we had a staff meeting with the Dean of Students, and she got pulled out to go to the President’s Office kind of suddenly. She left, and later came back and said ‘Hey, this is going on in New York City,’ and the first plane had hit at that point. We turned on coverage and I had gone down to the student center, and I vividly remember sitting there watching when the first tower fell, sitting around with students and faculty. We were all just sitting around watching when suddenly, the tower fell. I just remember being in shock or just disbelief as that was happening. As the day progressed, we cancelled classes somewhere around late morning and immediately began to mobilize the Student Affairs staff, where we began to identify students who were from the New York and New Jersey areas, as well as Pennsylvania, Washington, DC and Maryland. We started identifying who those students were, checking on them, seeing if they were okay and if their families were okay. The student I personally remember, Danny, who is a good friend of mine now, watched as the tower fell while we were in the student center, and one of his siblings was emergency response in New York. He didn’t know for a long period of time where his family was. They weren’t responding. The day just kind of became about reaching out to students, comforting them, and making sure they had touched base with family. There was really no communication in and out of the New York City area. That evening, we put a call out and invited the campus— there were only about 700 students living on campus, so it was a pretty small community— we invited anybody to come out to a specific location outside and have a prayer and candlelight vigil. About 300 to 400 people came out. I just remember that I was standing around offering prayers and reflection. I can’t remember if it was at that event or later in the week that a student came forward and said he lost his soccer coach at the Pentagon. He worked at the Pentagon and was killed in the crash. We had another student who babysat for a flight attendant on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. [Those stories] made it more real.As a community, we really came together and comforted those that had experienced direct loss or just had a lot of uncertainty from about a 24 hour to 48 hour period.”

 

Dr. Curt Hersey, Associate Professor of Communication

“We were watching live as the second plane hit the second tower. At first, people thought that this was a mistake. People thought ‘this is a tragedy, how did this happen?’ but nobody really, that we were talking to or was talking on the news, suspected that it was done on purpose. But it was after the second plane struck that suddenly we knew that America was under some sort of attack. Some students continued to watch television, some students left to go to their rooms, to call their parents, to call their loved ones, to be with each other… At 11 a.m. for Viking Vision, we had a staff meeting. And so I went to see if our staff had shown up, and I would have understood if they didn’t, but everyone was there. Everyone looked stunned. I remember one of the students turned to me, and she said ‘Curt, is it going to be okay?’ and I just had this moment where my inclination was to say ‘well of course it’s going to be okay,’ but this is an adult. And so I just had to honestly say ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘I think we need to figure out what you guys, as students, want to do right now.’ So, I asked, ‘do you want to go and be with family? Do you want to cover this as a news event that is affecting the campus?’ They were pretty adamant that they didn’t want to disregard the moment as journalists. So several of them went to Krannert and took pictures, and took video and didn’t do any interviews or anything, but just documented what Berry was like in that moment.”

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