Every year, when September 11 comes around, I always associate it with Purdue, mostly because I was a senior in the School of Liberal Arts when that tragic day happened. I have few details about September 10th. I know I did not have class until noon the next day, so I was up late after working on a TV show with National broadcasting Society down in the basement of Stewart Center. I think I went to bed well after midnight, with ESPN on the TV when I turned it off.
Why do I remember it was ESPN? Because I distinctly remember turning the TV on to see the coverage in New York. I had gotten up late, probably close to 10am because, as I said, I was a senior and had late classes. Like everyone else though, I was instantly captivated by what was happening. Everything that was going to happen had already happened, but no one knew that.
I immediately called my mother in Kokomo. She was retired and was watching my 3-year-old nephew during the day back then, so she would have known what was going on from the beginning. Between her and the news I was filled in. A lot went through my head then. I thought of myself, as a soon-to-be 22-year-old with a college degree that would be draft eligible if things got really bad. I thought of my cousin, who was in basic training in Georgia, having just joined the Army. He would eventually serve in South Korea and Iraq before getting discharged, but I knew that the man who was pretty much raised as my brother would soon be going into danger as a result of what happened.
The rest of the day was a blur. My first of three classes was cancelled entirely. My last two, Mass Communication Law and Fiction Writing, were held, but very little got done as we were all distracted. By the time I retreated into the basement of Stewart again to work as a studio monitor that night I would welcome the break from the non-stop coverage from New York and Washington.
One of my greatest regrets was passing up a chance to visit ground zero later that school year. I wouldn't get to visit until the summer of 2007, when it was a construction site with a makeshift memorial. The rest of the week was odd. They were among the most perfect weather days I can remember having in the Midwest, but there was an odd calm with no planes in a landing pattern over campus. On Thursday some friends and I went to the Neon Cactus simply for a break. We ended up all standing and singing the Star-Spangled Banner with Bruce in the Piano Bar.
The final event I remember was a week and a half later, when Ross-Ade became as quiet as a tomb before Roy Johnson, voice heavy with emotion, went into I am An American. It was the first home game of the season and the most somber tone that I have ever heard that pregame. It was in stark contrast to the previous time I had heard it, when Roy add, "You could sweep them clear across this bright Southern California sky" in Pasadena just nine months earlier. That was the most jubilant presentation of ‘I Am An American'.
I will always remember that day in Ross-Ade, when we slowly returned to life, but not quite as normal. Since then, "I Am An American' has taken on that much more of a meaning.
In 2001 I was a college kid on the cusp of entering the real world. 12 years later I am a father for the first time, tasked with guiding a boy to manhood in a world that still reverberates from the changes of that day.
There are many other stories that day. Two years ago I shared the story of Purdue grad Heather Penney, who nearly had to become a kamikaze pilot to take down any other airliners that would be used in an attack. We all had our roles that day. I, like many, could only cry, pray, and think. I wanted to share my story because everyone has one, and mine is s closely entwined with Purdue and this is a POurdue community where we discuss All Things Boilermaker. While we reach another year since that terrible day we continue to remember.
We remember those that were lost.
We remember those that were saved.
We remember those that helped others.
We remember so that we honor the memory of the most significant day in the last half century of American history.