UT community leaders share 9/11 memories

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A day to remember

In this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, United Airlines Flight 175 approaches the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York moments before collision, seen from the Brooklyn borough of New York.

Photo Credit: William Kratzke | The Associated Press

Editor's Note: This Sunday, people across campus and the country will remember exactly what they were doing ten years ago when two planes hit the Twin Towers and killed approximately 3,000 Americans in a terrorist attack. The Texan asked several prominent campus figures where they were and how they reacted on Sept. 11.

Mack Brown | Head Football Coach

“What I remember about that day, Sept. 11, 2001, is I was sitting in my office watching practice video and [Assistant Athletics Director for Football Operations] Arthur Johnson walked in and said, ‘Coach, I just want to make you aware that a small plane has hit one of the Twin Towers in New York.’

And my first thought was, what a tragedy for some airplane to have gotten off course or somebody must have had a heart attack or something to hit the Twin Towers. And then Arthur came back in and said, ‘Coach, I think it’s more than that. Another plane hit the Twin Towers.’ And then I turned on the television and started watching, and from that point forward, we understood that we were under terrorist attack.

My first thought was — with the Bush family living in Austin and one of the daughters being at the University of Texas — what about the safety of our players? What about the safety of their families?

We stopped our meetings immediately, and we got on the phone and started calling and texting our players to make sure that they were OK, trying to get them to this building, trying to get them downstairs so that we could all put some sense into what was going on with our country.
There were some scary moments because it took some time to communicate because so much of our communication was down. It was an open date week, and I do remember we decided not to practice that afternoon and we decided to sit and talk as a team and a football family about what had happened. We talked about the potential impact on them, their children and their grandchildren.

We played Houston the next week, and every one of our players carried a flag for the National Anthem. And since that point, we have carried at least two flags out onto the field. We try to have each of the young men that are carrying the flag onto the field have some sort of affiliation with our armed forces by having a either a relative or a dear friend in the military.

And as you look back ten years ago, our incoming freshmen were eight years old at that time. So we’ll go back through some of the changes in history over that moment this afternoon with our team.”


Glenn Frankel | Director of the School of Journalism

“By the time I left the gym that morning, the second plane had struck the South Tower and everyone understood this was no accident. I rushed to the Washington Post just as the first reports were coming in of the crash at the Pentagon, and the newsroom — already dispatching more reporters up to New York — suddenly faced a massive breaking story just across the Potomac. As editor of the Sunday magazine, I started tearing up our long-scheduled issues and making plans for several 9/11 issues and stories.

At the same time, all of us volunteered for the immediate task at hand. Our half-dozen staff writers hit the streets, while I and four other editors marched over to the national news desk to help process the reams of copy that were soon pouring in.

The Post had literally hundreds of people reporting and phoning in what they were seeing. Some of our reporters and photographers camped out at the Pentagon with firefighters and rescuers for several days. The newsroom was controlled chaos — lots of people moving swiftly between desks, endless hours working and staring at computer screens, all of us with our voices lowered out of respect and awe for the enormity of what we were covering.
I edited two of the longer pieces, one of them an early attempt to put the attacks in perspective.

Many Washingtonians spent the day in panic mode, fearing more attacks; offices closed, sending workers out onto streets that suddenly seemed dangerous. My older daughter, freshly graduated from the University of Virginia and working downtown at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, called to ask if she could come to the newsroom because Metrorail had shut down and she had no way to get home. She sat in my office, watching the TV reports and waiting for the threat to pass. In the newsroom we were too busy to ponder our own safety, but seeing her there somehow helped me stay focused. Sometime in the afternoon, I learned that a woman I knew had been on the Washington flight. The Pentagon burned for days.”


Sherri Greenberg | Interim Director for the Center for Politics and Governance

“I was actually working out at the gym, and the gym has televisions set up in front of the treadmills, and when I walked in, I didn’t know what had happened. I saw on the television what had happened, and as I was watching, the second plane hit the tower.

So I watched this happening on TV and I was absolutely horrified. There were other people there and it was totally silent. We had no idea what was going on, but I’ll never forget just watching it happen. Everybody just stood still watching the tv and watching everything unfold.

It was just a terrifying event, and I had children who were young at that time. They were in school. My husband and I had discussions and the elementary school gave us information abut what they would be telling the kids and how to talk to the kids. When the kids came home, we had to talk to them about it of course, which was really difficult because you need to let them know what happened because of course they’re going to hear about it, but you have to do so in such a way that they’re not terrified.

It was absolutely horrifying. Nobody had any idea what was really happening. I think that we were able to discuss the situation with our children in a way that did not cause them undue stress. I get a pit in my stomach just thinking about it right now. As I said, watching that unfold was just a truly terrifying experience. I was with other people and everybody was just frozen and silent. We were supposed to, within a day or two of that, my husband and I were going to take a flight to New York and we did cancel that. We thought it would be too stressful for the kids.”


Kevin Hegarty | Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

“I was giving a financial presentation to Dell Financial Services. I was vice president of Dell at the time before I came to UT. I came to UT in Oct. of 2001, literally a short time after, less than a month later.

I was in the middle of making a monthly financial update, and someone came in and said to turn on the TV, that a plane had hit one of the towers in New York. Somebody started almost kind of laughing because it was so unreal. I’ve never seen a room quieter, you could’ve heard a pin drop. People were just in absolute shock.

We kept the TV on and some people watched, it seemed like for hours, but after about 15 minutes, we began to think of all the people we had in the company who might be in New York. None of us understood the ramifications, but we began thinking of who do we have in the company that might’ve been there because New York is a key financial center and Dell was a huge company.

In the days that ensued as we learned more, it was a really great example of how people came together to help others whether it was helping someone at home or helping someone grieve. It was amazing that from such a tragic event could come such unity and support, and it really showed people how human we were and how much we depended on each other.

Needless to say, I did not finish my financial presentation. I remember so many details. It was just so shocking, something we would never have thought would happen happened. You had these monumental buildings come down, one might say they were likely to be damaged but not just taken down like that, and the loss of 3,000 plus lives in one event. I think it burned into peoples minds what they were doing that day. I was the vice president at Dell and I’ll never forget that day.”