Recalling Where They Were, What They Will Never Forget

Like last year, when Harvard kept course registration open Sept. 11 and started classes as scheduled Sept. 12, the majority of the University’s activities will continue as usual today.

But even as first-years take their language placement exams today and upperclass students continue moving in, students say they will recognize the tragic anniversary through both private reflection and at the University-wide memorial service at noon today.

Many students were sleeping when the first plane hit the World Trade Center last year at 8:46 a.m. and were awoken by roommates or phone calls before rushing to watch the towers fall on television.

Paul A. Fili ’04 said it took 10 minutes before he saw the news and understood that his roommate wasn’t joking.

But the media coverage did little to alleviate massive confusion, said Travis G. Good ’04, a Crimson executive, who was listening to the radio but was not sure whether to believe a rumor about a bomb exploding at the White House.

Ilana J. Sichel ’05, who was walking to classes at the University of Maryland last year, thought a friend who told her of the attacks had said the target was the World Bank, not the World Trade Center.

“I started crying, because my friend’s father worked for [the World Bank],” she said.

For some of Harvard’s newest students, this year’s anniversary is especially poignant.

Zhenzhen Lu ’06 was in class on the eighth floor of Stuyvesant High School, a few blocks north of Ground Zero, when the first planes hit. As the school evacuated, Lu said she couldn’t see the towers through all the smoke and dust.

“I remember walking away along the Hudson River and looking back and thinking, ‘Oh my God,’” she said. “It wasn’t really real.”

Although she initially tried to avoid thinking of the attacks, now she remembers them regularly and will attend both the Harvard and Cambridge ceremonies today. Lu said she regrets that the area will not hold an all-night vigil similar to one that will take place in New York.

Even those not in New York or Washington, D.C. last year say memories of the day will remain in their minds forever.

Walking by Quincy House, Good saw a girl on a cell phone who had just learned that her father had been killed in the attacks.

“She was devastated,” he said. “I’ll never forget the look I saw in her eyes.”

Good said he felt “enraged” by the attacks, which convinced him to join the Reserve Officers Training Corps.

He, like all students The Crimson interviewed, said he plans to attend the Tercentenary Theater memorial service.

Brandon M. Trama ’06, who said he thinks about Sept. 11 constantly, said he welcomed the opportunity to mourn with fellow students today after disappointment that his Connecticut high school left students to cope with the attacks on their own last year.

“It’s different, but it’s not a negative thing,” Trama said of remembering the events without the company of his family and high school friends. “You’re in the context of a community that’s very involved.”

The diversity of Harvard’s student body—which includes some who were personally impacted by the attacks—also makes spending the anniversary here more meaningful, Christopher R. Sarokhan ’06 added.

But Anne M. Morris ’04, who helped plan Sept. 11 remembrance activities at a children’s hospital this summer, said she worried that despite the memorial, Harvard first-years might not know where to go for individual counseling.

“I feel like there should be more done,” she said. “It would be nice to have facilitated student discussion sessions.”

In addition to the memorial service, University Health Services is sponsoring two hour-long support group sessions this afternoon.

The emotional stress of the anniversary this year was compounded yesterday for many by the government’s announcement that it had received “specific and credible” information about a possible new attack by terrorists.

As Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge ’67 announced that the federal government raised its threat level yesterday to “orange,” signifying a high probability of another attack, some students expressed concerns over future targets.

Morris, who lives in the Washington, D.C. area, said Sept. 11 has made her more aware of Washington’s vulnerability in the event of another attack.

Lu, however, said she did not spend time worrying about terrorism yesterday.

“[The World Trade Center] fell down next to me,” she said. “What else could I be scared of?”

—Staff writer Elisabeth S. Theodore can be reached at theodore@fas.harvard.edu.