10 years after 9/11 shook the nation

Dr. Ernie Goss heard when his plane was grounded in St. Louis. Tetona Dunlap heard when she got in an elevator with her RA. And Lynn Safranek heard while she was blow-drying her hair.

“I’m certain most everyone remembers where they were on September 11,” said Goss, the McAllister chair and an economics professor in the College of Business. “I just happened to be at the World Trade Center.”

Goss had been in New York to receive an award at a national economics conference on Sept. 10 He was scheduled to leave later in the day on Sept. 11. It was just by chance that Goss awoke before dawn at his hotel – the Marriott at the World Trade Center, right in between the two towers.

“I never have coffee, but I had some the night before, so I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night,” Goss said.

So, instead of waiting around the hotel, Goss decided to head to LaGuardia Airport to try and get on a different flight. He caught a cab at 4 or 5 a.m., and left the hotel without checking out. Scheduled to speak in Des Moines that evening, he said wanted to give himself some extra time by arriving in Omaha early.

“We flew out of New York at 7:30 or 8 a.m.,” said Goss. “Then we were grounded in St. Louis, and the flight crew asked us all to leave the plane.”

It was then that Goss first heard about the World Trade Center and the attacks.

“I heard a flight attendant say ‘they hit Tower One’ and I immediately thought ‘Oh my God, is it a nuclear attack?’” Goss said. “No one knew what to think.”

Meanwhile in Omaha, Safranek and Dunlap, the editor-in-chief and photo editor of the Creightonian at the time, were both getting ready for classes that day.

“I overheard on my clock radio that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center,” Safranek said. “Initially I thought it had to have been a freak accident, but it was clear when I turned on the ‘Today Show’ and saw footage that it was no accident.”

Creighton students crowded on and around the couches at the Skutt Student Center to watch the news.

“Everyone was glued to the screens even though they played the same footage over and over again,” Dunlap said. “The events of that day are still vivid in my memories.”

Goss watched the footage in the bar in the St. Louis airport, which was crowded with fellow passengers as plane after plane landed.

“There was nothing but silence,” he said. “Nothing. There was no noise in the whole bar.”

Over the next few days, the whole country was in shock. Public transportation had ceased; there were no flights, no buses and no trains. People were stranded in airports all over, and everyone was trying to get home, or elsewhere. Goss was grateful he was in St. Louis and not New York or Atlanta, or someplace farther from home.

But the strangest part: Everything felt safe.

“It was a most unusual time,” he said. “Everyone was helping everyone.”

Goss said he had to go through some of the tougher parts of St. Louis looking for a place to stay, but he didn’t feel threatened. Everyone understood, and nobody took advantage of the situation. One taxi driver he talked to had driven one person several hours home.

“And when I rented a car to drive to the Kansas City airport they only charged me $60,” he said. “Today that bill would easily be $200 or $300.”

He said the most surreal moment, however, was when his wife dropped him off at Eppley Airfield to pick up his car. There were only two other people in the entire lot – the attendant and a police officer.

“When I walked up, they looked at me like I was a martian,” Goss said. “I bet they were wondering what the hell I was doing. The airport was closed. There was nobody else there. Just me and these two other guys.”

Meanwhile at Creighton, Dunlap said the tone was somber. Both Dunlap and Safranek covered reactions for the issue of the Creightonian that came out that Friday.

“Everyone was in shock but also united,” she said. “There was a great sense of community.”

Creighton held an evening prayer service honoring those who died, and all around people were reacting in different ways.

“The following days were marked by extreme confusion,” Safranek said.

Gas prices spiked, and people prepared for a gas shortage that never came. The anthrax scare began and no one knew what was

going on.

“It made no sense and the government had no answers,” Safranek said. “At the [Omaha World-Herald], the copy messengers were given masks to wear when we opened mail.”

Ten years later, America has changed. Sept. 11 was a pivotal moment in the nation’s history, and the effects of the attacks can still be seen. Goss said he thinks one of the most unfortunate results is how xenophobic Americans have become. If someone is from a different race, religion or culture it’s harder for most Americans to trust him or her.

“There is more fear,” Goss said. “I think we’re all gripped with more fear than we were before [the attacks].”

Every generation has a pivotal moment, and 9/11 is remembered as one. Goss listed it among Pearl Harbor, D-Day and Vietnam. It was a turning point in American’s history.

“You can describe 9/11, but there is no way of recreating that fear, that helplessness and pure nausea of seeing people die, because really, that’s what was happening live on television that day,” Sanafrek said. “Planes were crashing into buildings, buildings were falling and people were dying.”

And as fresh as it still is in everyone’s minds, it is hard to believe it was 10 years ago.

“I am in awe of how quickly time goes past and the fact that the events of that day are still vivid in my memories,” Dunlap said. “It certainly does not feel like it was 10 years ago.”

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