University of Wisconsin: 9/11: 20 years later, campus remembers

Twenty years later, we remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. And then another, erasing any temporary thoughts of some sort of freak accident.

Gary Sandefur, then dean of the College of Letters & Science, was interim provost at the time, and had to step in to lead the university when suspended air travel left then-Chancellor John Wiley stranded in Los Angeles.

“Over the course of the week we dealt with the shock, fear and sadness that everyone on campus felt as we dealt with campus safety concerns, the desire to honor those killed, whether to have the football game on Saturday and whether to have a special campus event on Friday as called for by President Bush,” Sandefur recalled on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. “I remember the deep respect to those who lost their lives along with a strong sense of a united, concerned and determined campus community.”

Campus came together in the days that followed with thousands gathering at Library Mall to commemorate those who had died in the attacks and to take some small comfort by being with others as we shared our collective grief.

We weren’t glued to our smartphones – the first iPhone wouldn’t come out until 2007. We were glued to our TVs, often watching in public spaces on campus with others.

Social media was years away. We shared our thoughts in person – and our moments of silence.

The majority of today’s UW–Madison students were either not born yet or far too young to remember that day. But people who were on campus easily remember that horrific day and the confusing days that were ahead. Five of them shared their recollections with us.

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