Tuesday Morning, September 11, 2001
September 11th Timeline
September 11, 2001, a Tuesday, was the fifth day of regular classes and the second day of early bird and evening classes for Pace University's fall semester. In 2001, Pace's Lower Manhattan campus, located in the heart of the civic and financial center of New York City, New York's financial district, comprised several facilities:
- The One Pace Plaza building, housing offices, classrooms, the Birnbaum Library and Maria's Tower with fifteen floors of dormitory space;
- The 41 Park Row building, home to numerous academic departments and classrooms;
- The World Trade Institute, located on the 55th floor of the World Trade Center, the site for specialized training programs for individuals and organizations in international business, law and culture, and in foreign languages;
- Additional dormitory space at 100 John Street, 106 Fulton Street, 135 William Street, the College of Insurance on West Street, and the Hotel St. George across the bridge in Brooklyn Heights.
It began as a beautiful day, with perfect weather, the kind of day when many would have probably preferred being outside rather than in class or at work. With classes beginning at 7:00am, many students, faculty and staff were already on Pace premises when American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the north façade of the north World Trade Center tower at 8:46am. Others were just emerging from adjacent subway and PATH stations when United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the south tower seventeen minutes later. Still others were on their way in, turned back further uptown as first the south tower and then the north tower fell at 9:59am and 10:28am, bringing the public transportation system and then the entire city to a halt, 102 unforgettable minutes that changed New York City forever.
There are many timelines available, some minute-by-minute, chronicling the events of that day and its immediate aftermath on a global level. At Pace, we are fortunate to have several chronologies of our own experience and our own response to events. The following is a general outline of what happened, compiled from information in two Pace periodicals: the student-generated Pace Press and the monthly in-house newsletter Opportunitas. The original issues containing this information have been digitized and are available in this section of the website.
Within minutes of the planes crashing, Dean for Students Marijo Russell-O'Grady sends Student Life staff to the dormitory space at the College of Insurance on West Street, a block north of the WTC. Staff urge students to come to the One Pace Plaza building.
Uptown, at the Pace Midtown Center, located on Fifth Avenue and 45th Street, President David A. Caputo is attending a meeting of the Executive Council and the Board of Trustees. He is notified of the crashes by NY Safety and Security Director Richard Abbinanti. The President sends the VP for Finance and Administration, Leonard Sippel downtown, and the Midtown Center is set up as a communications base. Pace's main switchboard, located on the Briarcliff Campus, erupts with a steady stream of calls, many from parents.
At 10:00am classes are cancelled. Fearing additional attacks, security staff suggest that everyone remain in the building, but those wishing to leave are directed north. Some are already outside when the towers collapse.
Tuesday Afternoon, September 11, 2001
Security and Buildings and Grounds staff move everyone to the gym, the Spotlight Café and the theater where the air quality is best. Thanks to quick thinking by Victor Jabar, NYC Buildings and Grounds Director, the building's ventilation system is shut down to prevent pulling in smoke and dust. A temporary cell phone system is set up to relay information to the switchboard operators in Briarcliff.
Pace is contacted by the NYC Fire Department to use the One Pace Plaza building. President Caputo gives the OK and the NYC Office of Emergency Management transforms the Admissions area into a field hospital. It later becomes a triage center for rescue workers and for anyone in the vicinity needing a place to stay.
Tuesday Evening-Wednesday Morning, September 11-12, 2001
The Director of Student Auxiliary Services asks the 9 food service employees to stay and feed whoever is in the building. Thousands of students, faculty, staff, firefighters, police and EMS workers are fed.
By late afternoon, students are allowed to return to the Maria's Tower dorm. They are joined by President Caputo, VP Sippel, Dean Russell-O'Grady, Executive Assistant to the President Cindy Heilberger and the director and two staff members from the Counseling Center. They remain all night.
By 7:00pm, Provost Marilyn Jaffe-Ruiz reports that faculty and staff, including those from the World Trade Institute, located on the 55th floor of the north tower, appear to be safe.
Pace loses its electricity on Tuesday and must rely on emergency generators to power emergency lights in the dormitory, one elevator and water and sewage pumps. More electricity is needed for the triage center. Paramount Studios in Long Island City arrives with portable receptacles and lighting, followed by a larger generator from Con Ed at 10:00pm.
On Wednesday morning, NYC Security Director Abbinanti secures five NYC buses to take NY students to Brooklyn and Pleasantville. Pleasantville students share their dorm rooms with their NY classmates.
Thursday and Friday, September 13-14, 2001
Westchester classes resume on Thursday. With phone service out, two toll-free hotlines are set up on Friday, one for employees and the other to field calls from parents and to communicate with non-resident New York City Students. Over the course of two weeks, 99 volunteers handle 6,692 phone calls. The University begins offering group-counseling sessions for faculty and staff at the Midtown Center. More than 700 people attend.
On Friday, the decision is made to try to reopen on Wednesday, September 19th.
Saturday and Sunday, September 15-16, 2001
One Pace Plaza remains open thanks to the Security and Buildings and Grounds personnel. Cleaners and maintenance workers maintain restroom and shower facilities for the National Guard, who use One Pace Plaza as a command post.
Wednesday, September 19, 2001 and after
An emotional day in the life of the University, resident students, faculty and staff begin returning to campus. Many are eager to resume their routine and look for ways to help. The Center for Community Outreach works with students to create a remembrance quilt and to publish a compilation of student photography, poetry, artwork and prose stemming from their experiences.
The Center, together with the Dyson College of Arts & Sciences Dean's Office and the Office of Multicultural Affairs coordinate a four-session campus forum series on U.S. foreign policy, the history of the Middle East, terrorism and civil liberties. The Michaelian Institute for Public Policy and Management offers a forum entitled "The September 11 Tragedies: A discussion of the psychological, economic, security and political implications. These sessions are attended by more than 400 students.
The Long-Term Impact on Pace
In the days and weeks that followed its reopening, Pace University established itself as an important resource for the downtown community and a contributor to the rebuilding and revitalization efforts. Primarily through the Center for Downtown New York (CDNY), created by President David A. Caputo, the University opened its doors to the community as a source of expertise in a variety of disciplines and as a gathering place.
CDNY joined with the Pace University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to promote the SBDC's free services available to lower Manhattan businesses. In the weeks immediately following September 11, the SBDC helped more than 100 merchants file for disaster/recovery loans. It also sponsored a number of conferences:
- Courts in the Aftermath of 9/11: 9/11 Summit – a three-day summit covering all of the issues confronting the courts post 9/11 – how to balance heightened security needs with public access to the courts and addressing the unique legal issues arising from such events.
- Building Memories: The Future of September 11: held the week before the 1-year anniversary, this one-day conference served as an open forum designed to provide background and insight into the process of memorializing September 11.
- Lessons Learned from 9/11: Emergency Management Planning for Universities: this conference offered other university leaders information on how to prepare and respond to disasters, how to learn which methods work, and how to gauge the preparedness of academic institutions for such events. Panels included academic and administrative leaders from various areas of the University.
- Democracy at a Critical Juncture: The Regional, National and Global Implications of 9/11: Undergraduates from universities in the U.S. and Israel take part in an intensive week of seminars to study the impact of September 11 and its aftermath from a variety of political, economic, social and religious perspectives.
Faculty and students also played an important role during this time. The Pace Press, under the editorship by Shams Tarek, became a vital source of communications in the days following September 11.
History professors Bill Offutt and Nancy Reagin created a Yahoo! listserv and bulletin board for students after Pace lost communications capabilities.
More than 200 law students, led by Professor Vanessa Merton, provided free legal assistance to the victims of the attacks. The Disaster Assistance Program helped those affected by the attacks to identify their needs and secure representation.
The Student Government Association, led by President Nancy Owen, sponsored a three-day Antiterrorism Conference. Four students from Oklahoma City attended and participated in the panel discussion with six Pace students. Other panels included faculty-led discussions covering business and economic perspectives and the prevention of terrorism.
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