By Mosheh Oinounou
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
Posted 6:30 p.m. Sept. 12
College students across the country experienced a full tumult of emotions from shock, horror and disbelief as they watched images of the unprecedented terrorist attacks on New York and Washington Tuesday. The leveling of the World Trade Center in New York and part of Washington’s Pentagon shook the campuses of approximately 15 million students causing numerous universities to cancel classes and hold vigils.
Students huddled in front of television sets watching news reports that looked more like movies than reality.
“You just kind of stare at the television and try to figure out if you are looking at a movie or not,” University of Pennsylvania senior Andrew Glaser.
Students across the country echoed those sentiments, staring at images in disbelief.
“It was an absolutely surreal scene,” said Michael Mirer, editor-in-chief of the Columbia University Daily Spectator. “One day I’ll be able to put it into words — but not today.”
About a mile from the Pentagon attack, students at George Washington University in Washington were unable to contact loved ones via telephone in the hours after the attack as cell phone cells and ground lines were jammed. Roads and bridges leading into and out of the capital were closed initially following the incidents.
“I don’t want to sleep in the city tonight, but I don’t know where to go or have a way to get there,” GW sophomore Mackenzie Liman said.
“I don’t know how many of these terrorist acts I can take before I decide to transfer,” GW sophomore and Boston native Lars Bildman said. “I don’t want to put myself or my parents through this type of stress, if this continues.”
Students predicted that Tuesday’s events could be the defining moment of their generation.
“This the Pearl Harbor, the (John F. Kennedy) assassination of our generation,” Brown University freshman Dan Mortensen said.
From the University of New Mexico to the University of Pennsylvania, schools cancelled classes as word of the tragedy spread, students felt pushed to action, either by organizing vigils or giving blood at local hospitals.
“People are totally frozen right now,” California State-Chico student Sarah Stephens said. “It’s almost patriotic. So many people care about what’s happened.”
“Standing in a line for five hours is nothing with everything else happening today,” GW freshman Lauren Mellinger said while waiting to donate blood.
Only hours after the attack, students were speculating on what actions the United States might take.
“I feel like this could spark a third world war,” University of New Mexico student Coery Mello said. “This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The response has to be strong and swift. We can’t just sit back and take such a horrible act lying down.”
At the end of the day, students were still asking questions.
“How could the most powerful nation in the world let this happen?” University of Toledo freshman Mark Dobay asked.