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LSU Remembers

Sept. 11, 2001. Ten years ago. How time flies, and how it drags.

LSU honored the fourth anniversary of Sept. 11 with ceremonies on campus in 2005.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

For this year's college freshmen, the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred when most of them were only 8 years old. For them, that probably seems like a very long time ago. But for others, especially those who lost loved ones in New York City, Washington, D.C., and a field in rural Pennsylvania, it probably feels like only yesterday.

Ten years after the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history, LSU will honor the memory of those lost and proudly recognize their courage and bravery, as well as the strength of those they left behind.

On Sunday, Sept. 11, LSU will hold a Remembrance, Walk and Candlelight Vigil in recognition of 9/11. Anyone interested in participating should gather at Free Speech Plaza, near the LSU Union, at 6 p.m. Those in attendance will be given an index card with a reflection question about the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and will be encouraged to attach their written responses to a biodegradable balloon. At 6:30 p.m., the group will walk along Tower Drive, and participants will release their balloons in front of the LSU War Memorial and Memorial Tower as they proceed to the Greek Theater for the candlelight vigil at 7 p.m.

In September 2002, on the first anniversary of 9/11, LSU recognized all those who lost their lives in the horrific terrorist attacks of 2001.
Prather Warren/University Relations

LSU will also honor the heroes and victims of 9/11 at the LSU-Northwestern State football game on Saturday, Sept. 10. Tiger Stadium will be draped in American flags, with two large flags hanging outside the stadium from the West upper deck, and all the SEC flags inside the stadium will be replaced with American flags. There will be a fly-over during the national anthem prior to the game, and the 20-yard-line of the field will be painted red, white and blue. At halftime, LSU will honor Navy Lt. Scott Lamana, a Baton Rouge native and LSU alumnus who was killed at the Pentagon on 9/11. Lamana was a 1988 Catholic High School graduate and a 1992 LSU graduate in political science. He also participated in the ROTC program while at LSU. Thirteen members of Lamana's family will be recognized on the field of Tiger Stadium at halftime during a special 9/11 salute by Tiger Band. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, Sept. 11, LSU will honor first responders during the LSU-Pepperdine soccer match on LSU's campus. A group of local first responders will be recognized during halftime. The match begins at 1 p.m.

The attacks of Sept. 11 may have been 10 years ago, but for some members of the LSU community, this anniversary hits especially close to home. Three LSU employees, each in a unique situation on 9/11 as a university administrator, a journalist and a young professional who had just left New York City, shared their stories from that tragic day, and reflected on lessons learned after 10 years.

Keeping a university in New York up and running on Sept. 11

Christopher D'Elia, dean of LSU's School of the Coast & Environment, was vice president for research and a professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York, on Sept. 11, 2001. Located about 150 miles from New York City, and with approximately one-third of its student body hailing from the New York City metropolitan area, SUNY Albany was enormously impacted by the events of 9/11.

Chris D'Elia, dean of the LSU School of the Coast & Environment, was working as a university administrator at the University at Albany, State University of New York, on Sept. 11, 2001.
LSU School of the Coast & Environment

D'Elia said that by one count, 11 students, faculty and staff members from SUNY Albany lost immediate family members in the World Trade Center Towers, and he said a particularly emotional moment for him came when he encountered two students - sisters - leaving campus the day after 9/11. When D'Elia advised them not to head into New York City in order to stay out of the way of the emergency and rescue efforts, the siblings told him they came from a family of firefighters and five members of their immediate family were believed to be inside the towers when they collapsed.

"The grief that family must have suffered …," D'Elia said, trailing off. "This really reached into our community in a huge way."

At SUNY Albany, D'Elia was a senior administrator and recalled some of the tough decisions that then-President Karen Hitchcock had to make on and after Sept. 11. He said New York Gov. George Pataki had ordered all state facilities – including universities – to be closed, but New York City officials were asking people not to come into the city. If the university closed, many students would not have had anywhere to go, D'Elia said. So the university did not follow the Governor's order literally. Instead, it suspended classes but kept residence halls and food services open, and faculty and administrators were asked to reach out to students and offer them support and guidance. The university also held a campus solidarity walk, seminars and memorial services.

D'Elia said it was at one of those outdoor memorial services, when a jet flew overhead, that he realized just how emotionally fragile the campus had been rendered. Because commercial air traffic had been shut down, people at the service panicked at the sight of a jet and scattered. It turned out to be a National Guard jet, but the damage to the campus's collective psyche was evident.

D'Elia said it also shook the campus when they learned that the terrorists had flown one of the hijacked jets to Albany and used the Hudson River to navigate down to New York City and the Twin Towers.

D'Elia, who grew up just outside New York City in Fairfield, Conn., remembers seeing the World Trade Center Towers being built. He remembers riding up to the top of the towers, attending events there, and even had a cousin who once worked in one of them.

"For a year, I couldn't drive by [Ground Zero]; I couldn't bear to even look in that direction," he said. "Even now, it chokes me up when I do."

Covering an international news story with objectivity – and humanity

Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication, was working in 2001 as vice president for news at Knight Ridder, the second-largest newspaper publisher in the United States at that time. He was responsible for the content in all 32 daily newspapers operated by Knight Ridder and was living on the West Coast on Sept. 11, 2001.

Jerry Ceppos, dean of LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication, was responsible for news content in 32 major daily newspapers in 2001 while working for Knight Ridder news organization.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

It was 6:30 a.m. in California when he received a phone call from a colleague, alerting him of what had happened in New York City.

"My big dilemma was, how do you explain an overwhelming incident like this to people?" Ceppos said. "I wondered all day, how do we get across the magnitude of this event?"

He pointed out that in 2001, the Internet was far less dominant than it is today. At that time, as a newspaper man, his primary job was reporting on 9/11 the following morning, in the next day's paper.

"How can you possibly, in words and pictures, get across the magnitude of what happened? It was hard to get your arms around this story that had tentacles 10,000 miles away in the Middle East and had three locations in the U.S. Most of what journalists cover has happened before in one way or another. You're trained in how to cover elections, a car accident or a football game. But you're not trained for something as massive as this."

Ceppos said one of the most difficult aspects of covering 9/11 was having to deal with the emotions he was feeling while still remaining objective. "You are processing [the events of 9/11] as both a human being and a journalist. All of this information was coming at you and all these conflicting emotions were coming at you. You can't separate yourself, you're all one package."

The thing that struck him, as a journalist, is how Sept. 11 was one of those rare, historic, shared experiences for everyone in America, and even the world. He said there have only been a few events in his lifetime like that, where so many Americans were impacted and where everyone remembers where they were when they heard about it.

Even though Ceppos was living on the opposite side of the country, he, like so many others, had a connection with someone who was impacted. His nephew was living in New York City in 2001, and had parked his car that morning in one of the World Trade Center parking garages. As he was exiting the garage, he heard an incredibly loud noise and had to run for blocks to get out of harm's way. Ceppos said it is incredible to think of how many people were touched by this tragedy, either directly or indirectly. That pervasiveness, he said, was very difficult for journalists to convey.

Another aspect of the media coverage was trying to report on the events of 9/11 in an ethical manner. Ceppos said he tried to show respect and not report on the story in a callous or crass way. There was a good deal of second guessing among the media in terms of headlines and photos that were used, he said, and there was a wide range of pictures available to the media. On one hand, those pictures told the story and demonstrated the moment. But on the other hand, using those photos was not always respectful.

"There is no ethics manual that tells you how to cover that," he said. "Who ever thought you would have a situation like that to deal with?"

Ceppos said he thinks many media outlets did a good job covering 9/11 and did it in good taste. But he wonders now, 10 years later, if it would be the same. "It was different then because print journalists had some time to think," Ceppos said. "Now, you would have to file this information instantly, because of the Internet being so immediate. It would be harder to apply those standards of taste and sorrow and history than it was then."

Going to work and carrying on

Jewel Hampton, art director at the Office of Communications & University Relations, had recently moved from New York City to just outside Syracuse, N.Y., when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. She had spent about six months in New York City, searching for a graphic design job and working in an art store near the World Trade Center, where she used to change trains every day. Shortly before 9/11, she obtained a full-time design job in Skaneateles, N.Y., about 350 miles outside New York City, and moved.

Jewel Hampton, art director at LSU's Office of Communications & University Relations, had been living in New York City shortly before 9/11 and was just outside Syracuse, N.Y., when the attacks occurred.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

She arrived at work the morning of Sept. 11 to find everyone glued to a TV, and both World Trade Center Towers were smoking. She and her co-workers cried as they watched the first tower collapse, and she said the thought of all those people and all of those familiar places being gone was heartbreaking.

"These were places that I had been," Hampton said. "The areas I had walked through every day had collapsed, and it was all gone. Just the thought of that was overwhelming."

Hampton had friends still living in New York City, and family members living on Long Island and in Brooklyn. Thankfully, all of them were eventually accounted for, but Hampton said one cousin, who worked in the World Trade Center perimeter and who lost a dear friend on 9/11, has had a very difficult time getting over the events of that day. Hampton said her cousin, who happened to be late getting in to work that day and was therefore not at Ground Zero, was once pictured in the New York Times, holding up a photo of her missing friend. "Sept. 11 really changed her," Hampton said of her cousin.

For Hampton, another scary aspect of Sept. 11 was learning that the hijackers had flown one of the jets to Albany, and followed the Hudson River down to New York City. "My mind was spinning about how close they were to me," Hampton said of the terrorists.

Then came the news that the Pentagon had been hit, and the attacks became even more personal to Hampton. "My dad is retired military and the side of the Pentagon the plane flew into was the wing where my dad worked while I was in high school," she said. "That really ratcheted up my anxiety. It hit too close to home; it felt very personal."

She called her father to ask him what he thought of the day's events, and to tell him she wanted to leave New York and move back to Denver, where her immediate family was living. "My dad told me to go to work and carry on because not doing that was what the terrorists were aiming for - they wanted life to stop. My dad said they would win if we let that happen."

Hampton has made many subsequent visits to New York City, and the thing that struck her most in the aftermath of 9/11 were the photos of missing people that had been posted on fences and walls near Ground Zero. "Everywhere you went, if you passed a fire station or police station, there were altars and memorials," she said. "It's so sad."

She also remembers the military fighter jets flying over the city after 9/11, and the increased police presence. "The city had such a militarized feeling at first; there were police in the subways with machine guns."

But in some ways, that made Hampton feel better. Because her father's military career took her family to Germany in the 1980s, Hampton was accustomed to seeing armed military personnel in the large cities of Europe.

"Growing up in Germany during the cold war, my sisters and I had already experienced a military presence with machine guns in public spaces. When 9/11 happened, it was like other American citizens finally began taking security as seriously as the rest of the world," she said. "This was not like a war against a country; it's so different. A single man can wage war against anyone he chooses."

Silver Linings, Shared Experiences

Although all three of these LSU employees were in completely different locations and circumstances on Sept. 11, 2001, it is remarkable how they shared so many similar thoughts and feelings. But now, 10 years later, they are also able to see some silver linings to an otherwise horrific day.

In September 2005, LSU held a 9/11 remembrance at the Memorial Tower.
Jim Zietz/University Relations

"It showed the resilience of all of us and of the country," Ceppos said of 9/11. "If somebody had told us what would happen, I think most of us would wonder if our country could survive a disaster like that, and obviously, we can. It goes back to shared experiences. What happened that day does unite all of us."

Hampton noted that several years after 9/11, there was a blackout in New York City while she was there visiting. The whole city had shut down. "The subways and trains weren't running, so everyone was walking – across town, across bridges - talking about how the last time they made that walk was 9/11," Hampton said. "Shops were offering free water to people who were walking, there was no selfishness, everyone was helping each other, being supportive. They were all talking about their experiences on 9/11, saying 'I did it then, I can do it again.' It felt like a small town."

D'Elia also noticed how New Yorkers worried about each other and took care of each other in the aftermath of 9/11. "New York can be a surly and aggressive town, but in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, New Yorkers were considerate and thoughtful. It became a kinder, gentler New York, and that really struck a lot of people. But 10 years later, we're going back to our old ways. As a country, we're fractured and we're not pulling together like we were after 9/11. There's a lot of goodness in our country. Does it take an event like 9/11 to make it surface?"

A powerful question to ask ourselves on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.