Memories of 9/11, Ten Years Later

Today is the tenth anniversary of 9/11, so I thought I might recount my own memories from that day.

At the time, I was a grad student in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University, and I was also a math teaching assistant, teaching algebra or calculus to students in the Purdue business or tech schools.

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday and I had a test in the morning, on the second or third floor of the math building. I think the key events of 9/11 happened while I was writing that test, and nobody writing the test knew what was going on.

After handing in my test, I remember I went to the washroom, which isn’t something I’d ordinarily remember except for the fact that some guy in the washroom, who I didn’t know, asked me if I’d heard about what happened in New York City. I said no. He left. I was perplexed. Strangers don’t usually talk to me in public washrooms.

So I left the building and headed to Grissom Hall where I had my office. (Aeronautics and Astronautics used to be in Grissom Hall, and only moved to the new building after I left.) It was a sunny day and there were lots of students going between classes. I seem to remember overhearing someone saying that a small airplane had accidentally crashed into a skyscraper in New York City.

When I got to my office, I sat at my desk and went to It took forever to load the page, which was odd. I don’t remember how much news I got. This is long before live video on the web. Everything was text and images, and it was slow.

I didn’t have any other obligations at the unversity that day, so I went for lunch at a cafeteria near the parking garage. On the way over, I noticed they were ringing the church bells continuously, which I thought was odd, since it was a Tuesday.

There were some TVs in the cafeteria, and they showed the twin towers collapsing. I was dumbstruck. After lunch, I drove home and listened to my car radio for the latest news (on NPR, National Public Radio). At the time, I’d just moved from a small room in Graduate Student Housing to a big room in shithole house where the basement was flooding and I didn’t have a TV. So I listened to the news on my radio in my room.

(The landlord didn’t make me sign a contract, so I moved out of that place about a month later, to a nice appartment on Anthrop Drive, where I lived for the rest of my time at Purdue.)

I don’t think I got much work done that day. The radio had nonstop coverage for a long time after 9/11, maybe a week or more.

I remember there was a candlelight vigil at Purdue, maybe that night or the next night, but I didn’t go. I’ve never been the type to do big-group stuff like that. Over the next week or two, there were bomb threats on the Purdue Campus, but they turned out to be fake.

It was surreal.