It was a stunningly beautiful fall day, the sky a deep blue with very occasional clouds. Driving to the World Bank from an appointment, a voice on the car radio announced, almost casually, a fire at the World Trade Center in New York. Speculation followed that a small plane might have collided. More active chat and speculation. Reaching the office, a growing crowd gathered around a television, watching the fire grow. And then the second tower was hit, and the speculation abruptly shifted as realization dawned of an extraordinary attack. From where we were, we then could see smoke that appeared to come from the White House, two blocks away (it was actually from the Pentagon). Everyone’s thoughts turned to their families’ welfare, as a strange New York crisis was instantly transformed into an unimaginable catastrophe, but one whose parameters were unknown. Cell phones did not work, so worries mounted. Fragments of information came, many false, we later learned. We were, it seemed at the time, directly in a line of fire and were directed first to “shelter in place,” and then ordered to evacuate the buildings immediately.

My drive home took hours because traffic was gridlocked. I was deeply relieved to find my son at home and to hear from my daughter at college, but new stages of fear and anxiety multiplied as we stayed glued to the television and witnessed the collapse of the Twin Towers; the attack on the Pentagon, closer to home; and constant speculation about what was to come. Anxiety rippled from concern for those who died with images of people falling from windows, but also of frantic efforts to locate the missing and mourn those lost. That was the situation through the long day, and for the weeks that followed.

Virtually no freshmen entering Georgetown today were even alive on 9/11, but those who lived the day will never forget both the horror and images of what happened and the deep and very new sense of foreboding.

Virtually no freshmen entering Georgetown today were even alive on 9/11, but those who lived the day will never forget both the horror and images of what happened and the deep and very new sense of foreboding. Many moments in our lives are engraved on memories, but most are personal. This one was collective, shared. It opened a very new chapter not only in our lives but in our history.

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