University community hit hard Tuesday

The morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11 seemed like a relatively normal workday in Washington D.C. For Muir senior Amanda LaRoche, a participant in UCSD’s Academic Internship Program and an intern at the U.S. Department of Education, nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the nation’s capital. LaRoche and her coworkers were going about their normal business in the department’s offices, located next to the Capitol building.

Miles away in New York, an incident would take place that would forever change America as we know it. It was not until shortly after 9 a.m. that LaRoche and her colleagues first learned of the events that were unfolding in New York City.

Upon learning that American Airlines flight 11 took an unexpected turn from its course to Los Angeles and crashed into Tower One of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, LaRoche and her coworkers did not feel they were in danger. They, like many people across the nation, were watching on television as the second plane, later identified as United Airlines flight 175, also en route to Los Angeles, crashed into Tower Two of the World Trade Center.

According to LaRoche, the atmosphere in the office building was one of astonishment, as many found it hard to believe that the scenes they were watching on television were real.

However, shortly after 9:40 a.m., when a third plane crashed into the nearby Pentagon, employees at the Department of Education were told to evacuate the building. LaRoche remembers the chaos that followed.

“”There was a lot of fear, and we were told to evacuate the building quickly because the Capitol was seen as a target as well,”” she said. “”That was the first time I have ever felt a physical threat on my life. By the time we got outside, the streets were overflowing with people and everyone was panicking.””

After she was ushered out of the building, LaRoche waited alongside hundreds of federal employees who were standing outside the Pentagon, watching as the flames began to consume a part of the building.

From the nearby metro stop right outside the Pentagon, Muir senior and fellow AIP participant David Butler also watched as the plane first crashed into the building, disintegrating into the flames

“”I couldn’t understand how this could have happened at the Pentagon, of all places,”” Butler said. “”This building is known worldwide as being incredibly secure and impenetrable and I couldn’t understand how this large, American carrier was able to hit a building as safe as that.””

But apparently, even the safest of buildings was not strong enough to resist the attack that took place that day.

UCSD alumnus Terri Duggan Schwartzbeck, who works just blocks from the White House, also witnessed the attack at the Pentagon. Upon hearing the plane crash at the Pentagon, Schwartzbeck and her colleagues quickly evacuated the office building. According to Schwartzbeck, there was a widespread fear that other buildings in the area would be attacked next.

“”After the Pentagon was hit, we realized we were near a big target — the White House,”” Schwartzbeck said. “”It was strange, but that day you evaluated everything as a potential target.””

As terrorists attacked symbols of modern-day American democracy, UCSD students and alumni who were present during the attacks — along with those watching on television nationwide, and around the world — felt a sense of helplessness.

Still, the most difficult aspect of this national tragedy will most likely be the aftermath. According to those who witnessed Tuesday’s events first-hand, Americans will never regain the same sense of security that they felt prior to the attacks.

Although the government has ensured that increased security measures will be taken, the trauma that these events have caused will not be easily forgotten.

“”We have to fly back home in less than nine weeks,”” LaRoche said. “”I have no idea how I am going to do that, because once you’ve been through something like this, everything changes. It is very difficult to salvage that sense of security.””

According to students, the aftermath of the terrorist attacks has also fostered a sense of community among all Americans. This sense of unity was seen at a candlelight vigil that thousands of people attended in Washington the night after the attacks took place.

“”We all have something in common now,”” Butler said. “”No matter what part of the United States you live in, you were affected by these events, and because we all have this shared experience, there is a sense of unity among all Americans following the tragedy that took place.””

While few can soon forget the images of the attacks, these students are now struggling to somehow cope with this tragedy. As the search for those missing continues in both New York and Washington, Americans hold with them a sense of hope that one day, they will recover from the anguish caused by the loss of thousands of innocent lives.

“”This will definitely be a day I will never forget,”” Butler said. “”This was a day I was forced to review my own invincibility — and that has given me a whole new perspective on life itself.””

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