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Sept. 8, 2011
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

9/11 anniversary prompts personal reflections 

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – For those who watched events unfold a decade ago, Sept. 11, 2011, the day America was attacked by terrorists, thoughts of what they were doing, where they were, what the saw and what they were thinking are forever etched in their memories. We asked several Slippery Rock University faculty and staff to share their reflections.

           Mustafa Casson, an instructor in professional studies who joined the faculty in August:

           “I was in Istanbul, Turkey doing archeology field work where it was seven hours later than in New York. I was walking about mid-afternoon on the main boulevard since I had the day off. There had been a small bombing in the city the day before – a small trash can bomb at an embassy. It was attributed to Kurdish resistance, but was really nothing big. I heard people talking about ‘bomba’ and knew something was up, but I thought they were talking about the previous event.”

           “Some friends called me in and said New York City had been attacked. I watched the event on television and saw the towers fall. Of course it was delayed. It was pretty remarkable. Reaction around me was that everyone was shocked. No one could believe that America was so vulnerable…it was like watching science fiction. I was so far away from friends and family so I made phone calls home.

           “Remember, I was watching television, but not CNN. It was probably Al Jazerra or Turkish television, and they were saying that all types of groups were taking credit for the attacks; even a story about a Japanese group said to have caused the attacks in retaliation for Hiroshima got traction with the media there.”

           “I finally got online to Web pages and American sources to check the story. Since I was so far away, I did not go through the grief that a lot of people here did, in part, because it was so distant at the time. I had spent 10 days in New York City before flying to Turkey.”

           “The events affected by academic research. My research stopped being funded by the National Science Foundation as they pulled back from work in the Arab countries. I received funding to work in Jordan, but I have lost a couple of years of field work.”

           “I found myself distancing myself from American identity. I put Canadian flags on my luggage and let people think I was Canadian or Dane…anything but American. Americans were seen as the ‘Great Satan’ and infidels. Political rhetoric can be as ugly in Turkey as it is here. In some cases it got to be ugly just walking the streets. I had kids throw rocks at me after coming out of a barbershop. I had allowed the barber to put a razor to my throat, but was attacked by kids – while their parents watched without action.”

           “Since [President Barak] Obama was elected, people there have been much more embracing of Americans working in Syria and Turkey. They are all open arms and smiles for us.”

Todd Simmers, information technology generalist in the Office of Information and administrative Technology Services remembers:

“I had the day off because my family was flying out after a visit. They had left very early, and I was sleeping, then got up and went to pay my car insurance. When I walked into the insurance office, everyone look horrified. They told me what was happening and a few seconds later the second building came down. I got on the phone to track down my family. They were supposed to have been on the ground by the time of the attack, but it was scary until I made contact. Everyone was safe.”

“The attacks have had some effect on my life since I am a volunteer fireman with the eight- to 10-member Kennerdell Volunteer Fire Department. We have undergone a lot more training. Not so much to fight terrorists, but to be aware.”

Wilma Cavill, assistant professor of safety management, said:

“I was in my classroom and when I walked down the hall I saw the guys in the Army ROTC Office glued to the TV. I joined in and was devastated by the news.”

            “Since the event I guess I have been most affected by the searches I had to go through when flying. Sometimes they were routine, but sometimes they were full body scans.”

            “I joined in SRU’s program of reading the names of those killed by the attacks last year and will be participating again this year.”

Steve Verba, an assistant professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences who joined the faculty this semester, recalls he was still in high school when the terrorist attacks occurred:

“Actually, I was in study hall and the school principal came in and said they had blown up the World Trade Center. I remember thinking what the heck is the World Trade Center? We turned on the television and watched what was happening. I lived in Nanty Glo, not too far from Shanksville, where the third plane went down, and I got home and watched the news with my mom and things became a little more real. I lived on Route 422 and remember seeing [Pennsylvania] State Police buzzing by all night as they worked on the Shanksville crash. That helped it hit home how important the event was.”

“There events of 9/11 have not had dramatic affect on my academic area – exercise science - but they are always a factor in other areas of everyone’s life,” he said.

            John Buttermore, assistant professor in SRU’s School of Business, was still in private industry in 2001:

            “I was in Las Vegas and was supposed to deliver a speech at a packaging industry convention. I woke up early, 6 a.m., Vegas time, and turned on television to see the towers burning. It was really a chaotic scene. By the time the convention would have started, the towers were down and everyone was on Red Alert. The Las Vegas airport had been closed and sealed off and no planes were flying. The convention was called off with people too distracted to listen to speeches. But, Las Vegas kept going, but was subdued.”

            “I was lucky to have a rental car, actually a van, so by Thursday knowing we would not be able to fly, a number of us decided to pool for the drive back. Our cars were at the Baltimore airport, and I was living in York, Pa. We dropped others from our group along the way.”

            “The events were very sad. It was very memorable. Very sad and tearful.”

            “Actually things did not calm down for nine to 12 months. The TSA [Transportation Safety Administration] was formed and calling on airports to handle security they were not able to do. So travel was not very enjoyable. Just being able to get around was a hassle and travel was not very much fun…it was terrible.”

            “The events changed how business works. I began at SRU in 2004 and have not missed the travel. In fact, in marketing courses it was once taught that you needed to get to see and spend time with your customers. The events of 9/11 made that impossible, so new technologies have helped business address that issue. In fact a TV comedy recently had a father advising his son, who was breaking up with his girlfriend via text, that he needed to ‘see her face to face,’ to which the son replied, “Dad, I can’t do it face-to-face, my cell phone doesn’t have a camera.’”

            “Technology like ‘Go to Meeting” is helping business avoid the hassle of travel, which has really become troubling and expensive, and I don’t see it getting any better.”

            Deborah White, clerk typist III in the College of Business, Information and Social Sciences:

            “I remember it very clearly. I was getting ready to go to work at the University of Illinois. I had gathered by stuff, put on my jacket and was ready to click off the television when I saw the first tower fall. I sat there stunned for five minutes listening to the commentary. I then headed to work and we all watched television. In a few minutes, the second tower was struck; it was devastating. I knew there was big trouble.”

            “As for changes, like for everyone else security is much more challenging today than it was before. Before the attacks you did not need a passport to go to Canada. If you were at the Falls [Niagara Falls] you could just pop across the border. In the last couple of years, you now need a passport. Things are different. There is just more security in all things you do.”

            Michael Simmons, chief of SRU’s Police Department:

            “I was standing on Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh directing traffic when I got the news over the police radio. They immediately closed the court buildings and City Hall as a safety precaution and we all went on alert. Of course New York City called on all police departments for additional staff in the wake of the attacks and some of my friends and colleagues volunteered.”

            “At the time, nobody knew what was actually going on or how widespread the attack was, so Pittsburgh officers were on standby and heightened alert.”

            “The attacks certainly changed how we did things. There was additional training and new systems put in place. That training is still going on and is just a normal part of police training today, even for officers at SRU.”


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