Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 25, 2024

Tuesday's terrorism: Student's share stories of a horrific day - Sept. 11 marked the worst attack in U.S. history. Here, JHU students share where they were, what they were doing and how they felt

By Mike Spector | September 13, 2001

Freshman Mike Spiciarich

Around 9:25 a.m., freshman Mike Spiciarich had just gotten out the shower. Walking down the hallways of the AMRs in a towel, he heard the news just as he entered his dorm room.

"I came in, and my roomate said that two bombs had hit the World Trade Center," said Spiciarich.

Still not knowing all the facts, Spiciarich thoughts immediately turned to his family on Long Island in New York. Two cousins were employees at the World Trade Center.

"I called home to make sure my family was okay," said Spiciarich. "My Dad told me that my cousins got to work just as it was all happening. They were okay. But my Dad said he knew some people on the 84th floor of the World Trade Center. I don't know what happened to them."

After his call home, Spiciarich went to Terrace Court Caf for breakfast. Televisions blared the evacuation of Washington, D.C. Then, reports of smoke coming from the Pentagon. The Pentagon had just been hit; information was still pouring in. The atmosphere in Terrace was solemn.

"Everyone was talking a little bit, and then. it just went silent," said Spiciarich.

Eventually, Spiciarich made it to his 10 a.m. class. Upon learning classes were cancelled, he went to his R.A.'s room and then the AMR I T.V. room.

"There were at least 15 people in the T.V. room," said Spiciarich.

"Everyone was on cell phones trying to call home, but they weren't working. People just kept dialing and dialing."

Later, Spiciarich went to give blood. After a call-back around 5 p.m., due to a three-hour wait at Union Memorial, Spiciarich was finally able to make his donation.

At the end of the day, Spiciarich was angry and upset, but thankful.

"I'm glad nobody I knew was hurt or killed," said Spiciarich. "But I'm still upset about all the others who died. I'm also really angry about the images of Palestinians celebrating in the streets. I hope they find who did this and President Bush keeps his promise to take a strong stance."

Freshman Maha Jafri

For freshman Maha Jafri, the day started more or less like any other. After a normal, morning routing, Jafri made her way to her 10 a.m. class, Shakespeare on Love and Knowledge.

It wasn't till about 10:50 a.m., at the end of class, that an upset student came into Gilman 110 to attempt to break the news to the large, bustling class.

"She said something about terrorism," said Jafri. "The entire side of the room I was on was like 'What?' I had no idea what was going on."

Jafri then went to her 11 a.m. French class, where the professor informed her that classes were cancelled for the day.

"At that point, I'd heard tidbits, but I still didn't know the magnitude of it all. Some people mentioned pipe bombs. I thought maybe it wasn't that serious," said Jafri.

Finally, upon returning to the dorms, Jafri gathered with a large group to watch the news.

"Nobody ever comes out of their room on my floor. Not even when there's free pizza," said Jafri. "But everyone was in the lounge for this."

Jafri tried to call home as quickly as possible. She and her suitemate were in tears. They both thought their fathers might be in New York.

Fortunately, everything turned out well.

"I called my family and everyone was okay," said Jafri. "I thought about going home cause I really wanted to be with them. They kept telling me to stay inside and if I went anywhere, not to go alone."

After watching more news and talking to friends, Jafri felt frustrated and upset.

"People from 'A Place to Talk" approach you and try to get you to talk about it. I don't know what to say," said Jafri. "I'm not going to cry to them. I just cried alone in my room a little bit. The most frustrating thing is how detached you end up feeling. I mean, what can anyone do?"

Senior Leanne Shipley

It was about 9:45 a.m. when senior Leanne Shipley's radio alarm went off.

Shipley rolled out of bed to the sound of WHFS disk jockeys.

"They kept saying they were seeing smoke outside the windows," said Shipley. "I was confused about what was going on, so I turned on the T.V."

Shipley turned on the news while she got ready for class. For about 45 minutes, she got dressed to the horrifying news. Two planes had been hi-jacked and crashed into the World Trade Center, causing both twin towers to collapse. Another hi-jacked plane crashed into the Pentagon. Another never made it to its destination, crashing in western Pennsylvania.

"I was in shock," said Shipley. "The feeling was kind of numb."

Shipley then went to her 11 a.m. class, running into friends along the way who told her classes were cancelled. Shipley then went to the library to e-mail her parents and joined a large crowd watching relocated televsions on M-Level.

"I live about 30 minutes from where the PA plane crashed," said Shipley. "I e-mailed my parents and told them I was okay and I would try to get hold of them after they got home from work. Then I watched T.V. with everyone else. There were so many people gathered, and I was amazed by how quiet it was."

Afterward, Shipley returned home and watched the news for most of the afternoon. As the day came to a close, she still had troubled feelings and was rather anxious.

"It's still hard to believe," said Shipley. "I'm anxious to see what happens next. I'm not sure what should happen, but something needs to happen to make people feel safe again. Feeling this unsafe is one of the worst things imaginable."

Junior Matt Kroot

It was a normal day interrupted by tragedy, leaving more than one student stuck feeling there's nothing he can do.

Junior Matt Kroot was relaxing, reading a handout in a Gilman classroom. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary.

But then, he looked up for a moment and noticed a sign that seemed out of place.

"The sign said classes were cancelled for the rest of the day," said Kroot. "I wasn't sure what was going on, so I got up to ask someone."

Kroot got out of his seat and stepped into the Gilman hallway.

"I stopped a random person to ask about the sign, and they told me that the World Trade Center had collapsed and someone bombed the Pentagon," said Kroot. "I wasn't sure how to take it. It seemed pretty hard to believe."

Wanting to know more, Kroot headed to the HAC lab to try and get information via the Internet. CNN's website was down. Failing to find adequate information on Yahoo, Kroot left the computer lab. He headed toward Levering Hall, where he ran into his roomate, junior John Izzo, who accompanied him to try to find out more.

"We went into Levering and there was a huge crowd gathered watching T.V.," said Kroot. "We stood with the crowd and watched the news for a while and then headed home."

After watching the news for an extended period of time, Kroot became a bit numb to the event.

"After watching for so long, [my roomate and I] stopped and started talking about it for a while," said Kroot.

Kroot received phone calls from both his mother and father. Both were mainly interested in how the University was reacting to the situation.

Upon reflection, Kroot isn't sure exactly what to think about the horrifying events of Sept. 11.

"I feel like there's nothing really useful I can say," said Kroot. "I'm glad nobody I knew was involved. It was a terrible, terrible thing."

For now, like most Hopkins students, Kroot will try to get on with things. Classes resumed less then 24 hours after the worst attack ever on U.S. soil.

As difficult as it may be, America will carry on. Kroot will join students who are trying their best to concentrate on their studies, when, in the wake of an event carrying such enormity, the act of concentrating itself seems as much a challenge as anything.

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