King's professors and alumna remember 9/11


To commemorate the tragic event of Sept. 11, 2001, the Empire State Tribune asked King's professors and staff members about their own stories and recollections of that fateful day.  

Joseph Loconte, PhD, Associate Professor of History

As I walked to work from my Capitol Hill home, I remember thinking what a stunningly beautiful morning it was: not a trace of a cloud, the warm sun on my face, a gentle breeze. When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, we all assumed it was a terrible accident. But then the second plane arrived, and then the third plane, slamming into the Pentagon, and we realized we were under attack. And yet the truth of it could hardly penetrate my mind: Hijackers on suicide missions using airplanes as guided missiles? It seemed too insane to be true.

As we evacuated our offices, I saw hundreds, then thousands of people hurrying from their buildings. The police were everywhere, and soon the entire city was in lockdown mode. There was no hysteria, but rather a mood of foreboding, a deadly seriousness about the world in which we now found ourselves. The last thing I heard on the news before heading home with some colleagues was that a fourth hijacked plane was on its way toward Washington—most likely either toward the White House or the Congress. So I kept looking up, waiting for a plane to darken the sky.

But that third plane, United Airlines Flight 93, never arrived. It was brought down outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, by the courage and determination of its passengers. One of them was Todd Beamer, an evangelical Christian and a graduate of Wheaton College. Together they took a stand against the malevolence of that hour, and their actions saved countless lives in my home city. I can’t think about them without feeling a profound sense of gratitude and a deep awareness of my own unworthiness in the light of their sacrifice.

The Freedom Tower and the "Tree of Hope" planted in place of the sycamore that fell in the attacks. Photo by Cori O'Connor.

Ethan Campbell, Assistant Professor of English

I watched the Twin Towers fall from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, just across the East River.  The next day, I wrote about the experience for the Christian website Boundless.  This is an excerpt from that original article:

"The same scene we had seen on television now played in front of us—smoke churned and rolled from the towers, punctuated by flashes of flame from below.

"Of the hundreds gathered in the small park, many stood alone, weeping, crossing their arms against their bodies. Others stood in small groups around radios, which announced the Pentagon had also been hit. Many were women and children—whose husbands and fathers, no doubt, worked in the vicinity of the disaster. A handful, young men mostly, grew angry. 'Strap on your uniforms, boys,' one shouted as he paced the walkway. 'We're going to war!'

"I joined others at the railing who had cameras, and started shooting everything I saw—Lady Liberty with smoke trailing over her head; the skyline with its two smoldering icons at center; the Staten Island Ferry crammed with people. The air smelled like cigarettes, but the smell was inescapable, carried on the wind.

"With a low rumble like a far-off waterfall, the south tower collapsed. The sound was quickly overwhelmed by a wail that came from all sides. Shrieks of disbelief, shock. Great, grief-stricken sobs. Those who didn't cry breathed loudly and painfully, put heads in their hands.

"I would remember it exactly the same way many others described it later, with words that speak volumes about both the disaster itself and our culture: I felt like I was in a movie."

Read the full article here.

 Chris Cragin-Day, Assistant Professor of Writing

I sat alone in the green room enjoying the two packets of instant oatmeal I'd brought for lunch--it was all I could afford on my $26,000 theater teacher's salary. But I didn't mind. I felt content. I loved my public high school students. Mikhala, a skinny blonde techie, always dressed like a boy because she was being raised by her father. I could tell she saw me as a mother figure even though I was less than eight years her elder. Kyle, a skater who had shoved an entire peanut butter sandwich into his mouth when I told him there was no eating in class, always lit up like a Christmas tree when I recognized the comic book symbols on his T-shirts. And Amir and Ahmed, sons of Muslim Egyptian immigrants, always relaxed when they entered the theater room because they felt at home among the outsiders.

I had almost finished scraping off the last bits of dehydrated apple when Will, who would play Romeo later that semester, ran into the green room gasping for breath. "Did you hear?" he managed to whisper between breaths. "Hear what?" I expected him to tell me that the chorus teacher had lost his temper and thrown chairs again in choir practice. "A plane crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Turn on the T.V.!" We did. And as we watched the news, the other theater kids began to trickle in until we all gathered together in a clump. We felt the horror of what happened collectively. And I looked at Amir and Ahmed, and I saw their hearts sink to their ankles. And I saw their friends look at them in pity, because they knew that as hard as it was to fit in before, it would be much harder now. And we circled around them, we locked arms to shoulders, and we prayed.

Paul Glader, Visiting Professor of Composition and Journalism

In May of 2001, I visited the Wall Street Journal’s office in the World Financial Center at 200 Liberty Street, across the street from WFC buildings 1 and 2. I arrived early, wandered the shopping mall underneath the WFC buildings and bought a jacket from the GAP that I thought was more presentable than the college rowing jacket I was traveling with. I remember watching bankers going by with neckties blowing in the breeze and I remember staring up at the Twin Towers from the ground level and feeling as if they swayed back and forth. That day, I met top editors at the paper’s mother ship office in advance of my internship that would start in September at the WSJ’s San Francisco bureau.

A few months later, 9/11 happened the day I started my road trip from South Dakota out West to San Francisco. Each day on the road trip, I stayed with family friends in places like Lincoln, Neb., Denver, Colo. and Reno, Nev., finding a library or grocery store in each town that carried the WSJ so I could read about what was happening to my company from first-hand accounts. I soaked up the questions, thoughts and fears of Americans in the Midwest and West during that road trip.

Several stories I reported on as an intern in the West Coast related to the aftermath of 9/11 on business and the economy. It seemed as if nearly every story in the news reflected 9/11 in some way. Our entire staff won a Pulitzer for our coverage of the events. Here is an article I wrote for World magazine on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the perspective from a colleague who was there that day and wrote about the event drove NYC, literally, to its knees.

Amy Weaver, Alumna of The King's College

*Amy wrote this story after attending the Prayer Breakfast at the UN, with David Leedy, Dean of Students at The King's College and about five other students. The Prayer Breakfast marks the opening of the UN General Assembly. Below is an excerpt of her story.


I heard a news reporter in the days to follow the tragedy say that this incident was an extremely breath-taking one for the nation, and like the JFK assassination, you will probably always remember where you were when it happened. I, ironically, was with a few other students and staff members at the United Nations building for a prayer breakfast to commemorate and pray for yet another year of world peace.

By the time MiroSlav Volf, the main speaker for that morning, had gotten up to speak, both trade centers had been struck by the hijacked planes. But, the prayer breakfast continued without interruption, as Dr. Volf continued to speak about embracing other nations and people groups and not to retaliate with hate and revenge for wrongs committed against your nation. Further, he prompted us to think about how we might bring justice in love and reconciliation. Little did we know that only a short distance downtown and in Washington, D.C., our nation was being attacked, and we were facing the very situation that Dr. Volf was speaking about.

We were evacuated from the U.N. at 10 a.m., only to see the clouds of smoke against the skyline of downtown Manhattan.  We soon became aware of what had happened. We immediately gathered to pray and then began to walk.  All of the bridges were closed and the subways were not operating.  Most stores had closed their doors.  Everybody seemed to be on edge, looking at the sky, walking quickly.  People were trying to call loved ones and evacuate the city. The fear that it was not over rested heavily on the city. Eventually, we walked past the Christian Embassy.  Ministers and faculty of the embassy had been at the breakfast that morning, so we stopped to rest and pray for a while.  We prayed and read scripture for about an hour, and then we decided to try and meet the needs of the people on the streets.

We just began to pour water for people.  We brought bags of cups and 5-gallon bottles of water, and tried to offer hope as people walked past us. Many of the people had been walking for miles, some for miles just to get to their homes across the bridges to Brooklyn and Queens. People walked hand in hand, looking dazed and exhausted.

We set up a board for people to write the names of family and friends that may have been lost. We offered prayer, we offered a sympathetic look--anything that may convey love and help to ease the pain.  Some individuals just broke down as they picked up the marker to write a name, crying about their brother, sister, mom, dad.  Through tears, they managed to say the floor that they believed their loved one was on and choke out a prayer.  Others looked at the list of names and quickly looked away, shaking their heads, as if to say "Why pray to the God who killed my family and friends?"  I wanted to tell people that I didn't have the answers to the "why" questions, but that God is still good, His character is unfailing and He knows, He knows.  I wanted to say Let me just cry with you because I don't have a word to say - only tears, let me just take some of your sadness.  Let me hope with you for a word from family still not accounted for.

Every small gesture of love seemed so inadequate in light of the mass devastation, and yet the very presence and work of God was evident throughout the day.  So many people offered to help us minister, people donated money to buy more water, and so many were offering words of prayer as they walked past.  We were able to see two brothers reunited on the street that day.  The one brother had been telling a Christian embassy faculty member that he had not heard from his brother yet; and just as he was saying this, his brother called to him from down the street--truly a miracle in a city of millions.  We were encouraged by people walking past us who were covered in suet and plaster.  Although, it made the tragedy all the more real, it meant that some had escaped unharmed - able to walk away from the wreckage.  Already God was bringing hope to those whose worlds had just crumbled and could not find a breath of relief.

Thank you, King's professors and staff members, for sharing your stories with us and helping us to reflect on the magnitude of the event that shook the Financial District, the city, the nation and the world twelve years ago today. May we never forget.