Terror Strikes Home: Emerson on 9/11
September 11, 2021
This article was originally published in the Sept. 13, 2001 edition of The Berkeley Beacon.
“I used to see the New York skyline everyday on my way to high school,” said Emerson student Evan Bindelglass. “Now it’s gone.”
Bindelglass, a native New Yorker from outside Manhattan first learned of the terrorist attacks on America’s commerce capital as it happened Tuesday morning. He watched the news coverage on the dining hall television.
“I was walking in for breakfast and I saw the World Trade Center on fire,” Bindelglass said. “I got my food, and when I sat down, the other was on fire.”
Dean of Students Ronald Ludman was on his way to a President’s Council meeting when the two commercial airliners demolished the twin towers.
“I walked onto the 14th floor and one of the staff assistants pulled me aside,” Ludman said.
The meeting quickly turned to how Emersonians would deal with the attacks.
Across campus, at just about 9 a.m., freshman Sam Barker woke up to screams from some of the girls on her hall at 132 Beacon St. Barker and her friends, who had just heard the tragic news, decided they needed a plan. They packed seven people into a Volkswagen and drove to Manchester, N.H. for the afternoon.
“We just didn’t feel safe,” Barker said. “We were freaking out.”
Another group of Emerson students was trying to get out of the city Tuesday morning. Students from the Radio-Television News Directors Association waited to board a flight to Nashville, Tenn. to attend a conference.
“We were in the terminal with a terrorist,” said Melissa Boggs.
The Logan Airport television sets went black about 20 minutes before the announcement that all flights had been canceled, according to Boggs.
Back at Emerson, B.J. Warminski wasn’t sure what was going on when the alarm went off during his class at 120 Boylston St. Classes had been canceled across campus.
“I didn’t realize it was such a big deal,” Warminski said.
By the time he got back to the Little Building and ran into friends, he began to understand the depth of the situation.
“People who were usually happy people had these blanched looks on their faces,” Warminski said.
Just after noon, the Texas native was still trying to get in contact with a friend who attends college near the World Trade Center.
Freshman Katharine Houpt was confused when she returned to 132 Beacon St. after her class was canceled. Her floor had been completely abandoned when her new friends left for New Hampshire.
“On everyone’s white board it said, ‘I got out of the city,'” Houpt said. “I was like, ‘Should I not be here?'”
“This is unbelievable,” said writing major Moreen Cotton. “I got up worried about writing my essay, but when I saw this, I realized the essay wasn’t really a big deal anymore.”
Cotton was one of many students who crowded into the Little Building dining hall to stare like zombies at the ongoing news coverage.
Emerson’s Catholic Chaplain Ann Penick was there to talk to students and staff having trouble with the tragedy. But Penick had her own story to tell.
Her stepson worked both in the World Trade Center and in Washington, D.C. Penick found out he was okay.
President Jacqueline Liebergott spent part of the afternoon checking in on students in the dining hall.
“I think the Emerson community is responding with concern for each other,” Liebergott said. “I don’t feel any panic, and I think that’s good.”
Forks stopped midway to mouths as President George W. Bush came over the television. Several people who hadn’t found any place to eat yet just paused with trays in hands.
No one made a sound.
“Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts,” the president said.
No one’s eyes moved from the broadcast.
Next to the dining halls, lines for the pay phones stretched through the second floor. Phone lines were jammed and cell phones were rendered useless as people tried desperately to reach friends and relatives in New York.
“Everyone is in handcuffs because of the fact they can’t use their cell phones,” joked junior Brian Flannagan.
For others, the lack of contact was more serious.
Liz Engel, who family lives less than a mile north of the World Trade Center, was frustrated by the clogged phone lines as she tried to get in contact with friends who attend New York University in Lower Manhattan.
“None of us can get ahold of our friends,” said Engel.
By 1 p.m., aimless students had begun to gather in bundles. While a small group of seventh floor Little Building residents trooped off to donate blood, the common room looked like a funeral.
A box of donuts, chips, pretzels, and rice cakes had been left abandoned on the coffee table. A handful of students sat in front of the big screen television, barely speaking to one another.
In front of 6 Arlington, about 15 students gathered, clinging to each other. They shared their dramatic stories.
“My boyfriend was going to go to the World Trade Center to buy us tickets for a Broadway show,” said Linda Buda. “I’m so glad that he wasn’t there today. i’m in a better situation than most people, but it’s still a scary feeling. [The attacks] could have been tomorrow.”
Meredith Mercandetti told of some similar close calls.
“My sister goes to school on 11th Street, but I heard from her roommate’s sister that they are fine,” Mercandetti said. “My mom works in the city, but my dad had convinced her to stay home today because she felt sick.”
But one of Mercandetti’s friends may not be so lucky.
“A friend of mine works on the 80th floor of the World Trade Center,” she said. “He called his wife earlier to say they were being evacuated to the roof, but we don’t know what happened to them. He could be dead.”
By nightfall, the rush of people to get out of the city had subsided. An eerie silence fell over Boston on the day the United States became a little less safe.
Freshman Mike Benson, a film major who spent the day watching the television coverage, was having a little trouble sleeping.
“I am physically and mentally torn between thinking, ‘Wow, that was the best special effect,’ and ‘That was the most terrible thing,'” Benson said, squinting at the light from the hallway.
His thoughts turned to a friend from New York City, who was safe, but shaken up.
“Nothing in the world can prepare you for that,” Benson said. “I don’t think you should be prepared for that.”