There are moments that are permanently etched in our minds - associated with a special thought, feeling, maybe a person or a song. And they are private. Then there are moments that define history, reshape lives and become a common thread of people that may never have had a reason to know of each other. And those moments are not always private, but shared, to provide remembrance, healing and hope.
September 11, 2001 was a day filled with moments of images, thoughts and emotions that will always seem fresh, almost surreal. It was a day that you will always remember where you were and what you were doing in those moments when you first heard the news of the terror attacks, and how those moments of tragedy, horror and heroism left their mark.
On the 10th anniversary of September 11, Conference USA staff reflected on those moments:
Britton Banowsky, Commissioner
I was on staff at the Big 12 Conference on September 11, 2001. Kevin Weiberg and I were on a Board of Directors teleconference when our chair suggested that something was going on in New York City and that we should all turn on our television sets as the images were astounding.
On Labor Day, 10 years ago, my wife Cindy and I were with our kids in New York City and we spent a couple of hours in the World Trade Center, going up to the observation deck. The very next week, I remember my feeble effort at explaining to our youngest son, who was seven at the time, what had happened to those buildings and the people in them. The visual images he saw were horrific. I simply could not explain the situation.
The whole idea that a group of human beings could be so passionate about their religious beliefs that they would purposefully kill thousands of other humans, while these evil acts are not uncommon throughout history, they remain inexplicable. Certainly, it shaped our futures like nothing else in my generation's lifetime has. Not only the public and foreign policy of our country has been affected, but it made a deep and lasting impact on the attitudes of its people.
We will forever remember that day and pray there will never be another one like it.
Alfred White, Associate Commissioner
I was working in Asheville, North Carolina for the NBA as President of the Asheville Altitude of the National Basketball Development League (NBDL). The 2001-02 season was the inaugural year of the NBDL and much time was spent on the telephone with the NBA offices in Manhattan. I just happened to be on the telephone with the league office when the first plane crashed into the first World Trade Center building. The sound was so loud that the person I was talking with said they had to hang-up to go find out what it was. We had a television in our offices and programming was interrupted immediately. People in the office quickly congregated to the television and about the time I got to it, the second plane was crashing into the second World Trade Center building. In the days that followed the crashes of the airplanes and the names of the passengers began to be revealed, I learned that one of the passengers on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon was Barbara Olson, the older sister of a high school classmate of mine. In the weeks following the crashes, the telephone meetings with people at the NBA offices resumed and many times I was informed that Funerals for New York City first responders were taking place at Churches (Saint Thomas, St. Bartholomew's and Saint Patrick's) nearby the NBA offices.
Kelly Carney, Associate Commissioner
Just thinking about 9/11 puts me right back in my car...which is exactly where I was when I heard of the first plane crashing into the Twin Tower. I was headed to work and was on the Dallas Parkway getting ready to u-turn to the other side to get to my office. I was listening to The Ticket and they had just started to talk about what they were seeing on the TV from in their studio. I remember them being confused and trying to explain it as if it was a random, yet major, airplane accident. I immediately called my husband Drue who was at home. He was already watching the TV and was my eyes and ears for the entire day. We had a TV at the office - but it was for watching VHS tapes as we didn't have it connected to cable or satellite. Through the rabbit ears we were able to get a bad black and white picture, but the audio was in Spanish and I did not understand a word. Drue taped two networks on two of our TVs that day, so I was able to re-watch everything when I got home that night. I was in a daze all day at work, but can remember being very emotional that night, when I could finally hear the commentary and interviews from the various people affected that day. My Dad is from NY and having gone to school on the East Coast, I have quite a few friends from NY. So I knew people that lost people and it was just heartbreaking. I just can't believe 10 years has past...it sure seems like just yesterday to me.
Russell Anderson, Assistant Commissioner
When 9/11 occurred, I was working at Conference USA when its offices were in downtown Chicago on Wacker Drive, about six blocks from the Sears Tower. Early that morning, several of us had gathered in the Commissioner's office to watch the news coverage and we saw the second plane fly into the World Trade Center. As we continued to watch and saw that there were other planes in peril in the Eastern United States, our thoughts turned to wondering if Chicago and the Sears Tower were among the potential terrorist targets on that day. Thankfully, they were not. But, it was certainly an uncomfortable location to be in during the morning hours of that horrific day.
The other thing that stands out to me about that day and the following days was the feeling that hung over our entire country. A feeling of shock, sadness, despair and disbelief. A feeling that contained some anger, as well. But, a feeling eventually evolved into resiliency and renewed patriotism.
Courtney Morrison Archer, Assistant Commissioner
It is hard to believe 10 years has passed since Sept. 11. That fall, I was pregnant with my first child and working for the Orange Bowl Committee. Normally I was at my Miami office early, but that morning there had been a planning meeting scheduled at the stadium near our home.
My husband and I were watching the Today Show when they broke into coverage that a plane had slammed into one of the World Trade Centers. Just when we thought it was a horrible accident the second plane slammed into the South Tower. It was all so difficult to comprehend and my first thought was to leave for the meeting. The car radio had news about the Pentagon and when I arrived at the stadium lobby, we watched in horror as the Towers collapsed.
A few days later we stood in front of a neighbor's house with candles to commemorate those who died. Everybody on our street did the same thing. It was as quiet a night as we can ever remember. However, it did bring us closer to the neighbors we already knew and introduced us to many we didn't. As our family would be growing, I realized the importance in appreciating those around you.
I knew the world my daughter would enter would be entirely different than the one I knew before Sept. 11. I hope she never has to experience a time like that, but is always thankful to the heroes of that day and that she could come across any day.
Keisha Dunlap, Assistant Commissioner
On September 11, 2001, I was interning at Loyola College in Maryland (Baltimore). It was my first time truly being "away" from home and I had plans to fly home that weekend for a family wedding. It was terrifying being so close to Washington DC. Loyola was shut down for a couple days, the World Trade Center in Baltimore was on alert; it was a very scary time. I remember being completely consumed with the news coverage surrounding the event and having nightmares of the images of people falling and jumping from the twin towers. Ten years later, my heart continues to ache for all the families affected by the attack.
Erika Amstadt Hirschfield, Coordinator of Multimedia/Creative Services
For me it was just a regular work at home day and my daughter's first day of preschool. My home office at the time was a corner in our family room, but I never had the TV on while I was working. I was focused on a deadline for the Conference USA basketball guide - specifically ad copy that we needed from our corporate partner - Aeropsotale - whose office was in downtown New York City. I remember talking to my colleague Pete Rhoda, who was at the league office in downtown Chicago. Something he said made me turn on the TV. There was the second WTC tower falling. I mistakenly thought it was a replay of the first one. The TV stayed on for the entire day. A few hours later I got a call from the person I was working with about the ad copy from Aeropostale in New York. At this point, the ad copy deadline seemed so insignificant and I asked this person, who was essentially a stranger, "Where are you? Is everyone in your office okay? What is going on? Don't even worry about this ad right now." All he could say in a calm steady voice was that working was the only thing he could do to keep some normalcy to the day, especially because he didn't realize what was happening and work was the safest place to be at that time.
I know I made and received many more phone calls that day - to my family, friends, co-workers and my daughter's school - but I honestly can't remember those conversations. What I remember most is the few short minutes on the phone with a relative stranger working in a building in downtown New York who was grasping for "normal" among the turmoil. And sadly realizing that day there was an entire nation hopeful for the same.
Monay Lyles, Director of Events
Reflecting back to the morning of September 11, 2001 can be extremely difficult for people. Everyone I've spoken to regarding that historic day will never forget where they were when they heard about the horrible news. That morning I had the NBC Today Show on in my bedroom as I got ready for work. I heard Katie Couric and Matt Lauer saying something about one of the Twin Towers in NYC being hit by a plane so I walked towards my bedroom to see the breaking news. Standing in my bedroom doorway I watched as the second plane hit the South Twin Tower. Immediately a sense of denial hit me. Was America really under attack? Was this actually happening to our country? Watching the towers crumble to the ground was heart wrenching. No one would have ever thought the Twin Towers could or would fall. I felt many emotions that day but most of all there was a pain in my stomach knowing so many lives were lost and my heart went out to all those victims and their families. Seeing videos and pictures from that day reminds me to live for today and not for tomorrow.
Debbie Davis, Associate Director of Media Relations
Even though I didn't have a family member or loved one killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001, my life changed. I no longer feel 100 percent safe in my country. When I'm at airports, sporting events and even the local grocery stores my mind wonders about the people around me and who they really are - could they hurt our homeland? Even with those insecurities, the greatest thing I gained from the attacks of 9/11 was my true aspiration for our service men and women. I now see them in a totally different light. Our first responders, along with our soldiers, are our true heroes. I now realize and appreciate the fact that they risk their lives on a daily bases for people they don't even know. The 9/11 terrorist attack put fear into my soul but it also opened my eyes to the kindness, love and compassion Americans have for each other. God Bless America!
Kelly Ninemire, Sports Services & Officiating Assistant
September 11th was a day that I will always remember very well because of the impact it had on our country. I was sitting in my AP English class and our principal came over the loud speaker to inform us of this horrible tragedy. Our teacher immediately turned on the television to watch the news reports of what was going on. One of the fathers of a student in my class was in New York for business and in that moment that we found out, our attention immediately went to comforting her. I remember my heart breaking for her because I couldn't imagine the thoughts or feelings she was having. I will never forget the sense of togetherness that came over that entire room and school. I immediately wanted to be at home with my family because it was such a scary feeling and time. I remembering watching hours of footage on TV and just when we thought the worst thing that could happen had, another plane hit the other tower. I didn't want to go to school or be anywhere other than home because I was fearful of the events that could potentially happen. That day affected so many lives and 10 years later, it is still one that I can vividly remember.
Toni Gockel, Marketing Intern
Wow, has it really been 10 years already? That heart retched moment was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I was in my 8th grade social studies class with Coach Clay giving out our pointless worksheets for the day. You remember those worksheets for busy work, right? The ones that just filled up time for coach to read his ESPN magazine or draw up football plays for the big game that week. He took a break from teaching while we had to search through hundreds of vocabulary words and chapters to find one word answers. I flipped through the book to find the answer to question 1, and then it all happened. The announcement came over the intercom ... everyone stood silent. We turned the T.V. on and it was like a scene from the movie Independence Day. Some class mates were crying others in complete disbelief. We were all so young we did not know what to make of it. After the entire incident had happened, the school released us to go home to be with our families.
I personally did not have any family members or close friends that were directly affected by the attack, but it hit everyone extremely hard...one way or another. For the next couple days I began understanding what detrimental impact this had on our nation. My heart goes out to all families that lost their hero that day. Our country stood strong through such a tragedy. Thank you to all of our first responders and military that dedicate their lives to protect our country. That was definitely a day that I will never forget.