Some memories fade almost as quickly as they’re made. Other memories pop back at the simple mention of a place, name, or a date with vivid detail.
September 11, 2001, is a date that when spoken, draws millions of Americans back to the exact location they were when they heard of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
For many, it hasn’t faded at all — the emotions, the images of smoke, debris and feelings of grief and loss.
Cindy Selman, certification coordinator for the education department, had particular reason to be concerned that day as her son, Adam, was attending school and working in New York City.
Selman also knew that Adam often traveled right under the buildings to and from work and school.
“I knew that the subway route that he was going to be taking took him directly under the Trade Center, and so when I saw all of that unfolding, I didn’t know where he was,” Selman said.
She worked in Sanderford at the time and continued that day with her job while waiting to hear from her son.
Selman said, “I remember thinking and immediately starting to pray. I was standing and doing my work, or sitting at my desk, but it was as though I was kneeling. It was deep, deep prayer. And that’s all that I could do at that particular time.”
Later, she left campus to find emergency phone numbers for Pratt Design School where Adam was enrolled as a sophomore.
While she was away from the office, her son got a call through to her coworkers letting them know he was OK.
Selman said, “Immediately, I remember beginning to cry from relief and couldn’t stand. My legs just gave out because of the stress. They sat me in a chair, and they just let me cry.”
Adam and some of his classmates went to one of the upper floors of a dorm on campus and watched the buildings burn and eventually fall.
“Adam told me that he remembers on that first evening as the sun went down, how absolutely quiet and still that city was, and that city’s never quiet. He said it was unbelievable,” Selman said.
September 11, 2001, was a day of many feelings for Selman, knowing her son was safe, but many others were not.
She said, “It was a very mixed emotion as far as being so happy that my child was OK and knowing there were parents whose children weren’t coming back.”
Even those who didn’t have people they cared about in the area at the time still remember what that day was like.
Freshman Hannah Frey was only 9 years old on that day and recalls some things in vivid detail.
“I remember I was in my class, and (the teacher) just told us there was something really wrong,” Frey said.
She was living in Poquoson, Va. at the time near a military post where her dad was just short of retirement.
Frey said, “We were all sent home immediately. I went home, and my mom was the first person to tell me. She kind of rounded it out and didn’t tell me the full extent of the story. She just said that another country was attacking our country, and we had to take precautions.”
Frey remembers the solemn day, the confusion, the fear in her parents’ eyes.
“My mom and dad pulled us in and were really serious and told us what was happening. I was so clueless up to that point,” she said.
Being only 9, some details are fuzzy, but Frey remembers the overall emotion she experienced 10 years ago.
She said, “I don’t remember exactly how I felt that day. Everything was just a big blur. It feels like it was yesterday. I can remember being there and having everything just stop.”
Such memories of that day, can now be recorded at an interactive display in the Townsend library.
UMHB Chaplain Dr. George Loutherback was on campus at the time of the attack and recalls everyone drawing together for support.
“When the event took place, we had a prayer event with about 500 students and faculty members. It was an emotional time. … We were affected that day,” he said.
Since then, Loutherback has planned a remembrance chapel service each year, though this year will most likely be the last time for it.
He said, “It will always be a time of reflection. … This year Pastor Andy Davis will speak about what did we learn, and what can we as college students and Christians take from it?”
Senior elementary education major Brittany Williams believes that day didn’t just influence individuals but the nation as a whole.
“I think it’s affected every aspect, the airport and the military, how people view their safety. They don’t feel as comfortable. They’re more cautious,” she said.
Williams traveled to ground zero in New York last summer with her family and experienced the site firsthand.
She said, “It definitely brought back all the sadness, but it’s also good because it’s being rebuilt, so you don’t have to continue to be sad about it. I think the new building is really a symbol of hope and restoration and coming back from it.”
UMHB alumnus David Rowley was The Bells head photographer at the time of the attacks and heard about the tragedy from his truck radio early that morning.
The atmosphere on campus completely changed, but Rowley knew his responsibility was to cover local reactions.
“People just disappeared, but when you’re a journalist, that’s not always an option. You have to cover the news,” he said.
Due to UMHB’s proximity to the large military base, Fort Hood, security and tensions were elevated. Everyone was told to call home and assure their families of their safety.
Rowley said, “I will never forget the administration had to be very careful about how they told the student body because Bell County housed Fort Hood.”
People wanted to know what was going on and to see it for themselves.
He said, “Students were glued to the TV. … You could’ve heard a mouse chirping. It was really pretty eerie.”