On Sept. 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked by an Islamic extremist group. Those planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in a field in Pennsylvania.
On Saturday Sept. 11, 2021, it will have been 20 years since this attack. Staff members at Texas Tech were on duty that day, and they still remember their experiences.
“I was teaching a class that morning, in the largest lecture hall on campus, with several hundred students,” Lewis Held, an associate professor in the biology department, said. “There was no protocol. Everyone was every man for himself, in terms of professors. As I recall, there was no notification for faculty. It was just people watching television. They were finding out one by one and alerting their friends.”
Held said most students had heard the news from the television in the Student Union Building. Students would get to class, turn to their neighbor, and ask them, ‘Did you hear?’ He said there was not a widespread panic on campus that day, but more that students were stunned and dazed like deer in headlights.
“There had been three impacts,” Held said. “There were two on the twin towers and one on the pentagon, and the fourth plane was still in the air when I was standing in front of the class. We did not know where that plane was headed. I gave a very short sermon to the class before I started my lecture. I said something along the lines of, ‘What the terrorists want is to prevent us from carrying out our normal activities. They want us so scared that we can’t function. There is very little we can do to fight back against that, except to ignore them and go about our business.’ And then I gave my lecture.”
Held said he gave his lecture because the best response is to remain sane and calm.
Professor Stefano D’Amico said he heard about the attacks from his sister-in-law and watched the towers collapse on television.
“I had to teach that day,” D’Amico said. “My wife came with me to the department of history, and there were people all over just talking about it. I was supposed to be teaching a class on the Renaissance, but it was not the time for that kind of topic. So I went to my classes and I told the students to go home and turn on the TV. At the time we did not have the telephone where you could follow the event from wherever you were. I told them, ‘History is being made right now.’ This was a turning point, and it was something that would never be forgotten.”
D’Amico said he grew up in Italy, so the terrorist attacks hit close to home. D’Amico said domestic terrorism was part of their every day lives.
“Almost every day, and definitely every week, something like that was going on,” D’Amico said. “Still, 9/11 was something very different. There was skill behind it. It was in the United States for the first time. Historically, there was no comparison.”
Stephen Hinkle, the Patrol Captain at the Texas Tech Police Department said he was asleep when the first tower was struck and he was called into work, and ended up spending 16 hours working on campus prepping in case something occurred here.
“Campus was relatively quiet from what I remember,” Hinkle said. “Most students, faculty and staff were in a building or residence halls watching the events unfold. There were rolling blackouts that day also, so some thought it may be related to the attacks. Some classes were canceled and if I remember correctly, the campus ended up shutting down early. Most people I came in contact with were in disbelief.”
Hinkle said he was in the Navy Reserves at the time and ended up being deployed in England, Iraq and Afghanistan in the years that followed 9/11. He said it affected him and his family personally.
Held said if something like 9/11 were to ever occur again, it is important to keep things in perspective. The motivation of terrorists is always the same, to do damage and spread fear.
“It is very simple to characterize people as either good or evil,” Held said. “You have to admit, there are a lot fewer evil people than there are good people. We need to remind ourselves of that when we are having to face the actions of those people. There is some reassurance knowing that most humans are kind, generous, and compassionate. In the long run those people will prevail, in my opinion.”
In remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001, the Young Conservatives of Texas TTU Chapter will be participating in their 15th annual flag planting. The flag planting will be hosted at 6 p.m. on the east side of Memorial Circle on Sept. 10.