Dawn Knipe
Pace University
Director of Enrollment Services

Constantine Ioannidis



Constantine: Ok, this is my interview with Dawn Knipe, Dawn why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself.

Dawn: Ok, lets see, uh my name is Dawn Knipe, I work at Pace University; I’m the Director of Enrollment Services. Um I've been at Pace for 25 years, I used to work at the Schimmel Theater, I worked as um Director of Student Life, Assistant Dean for Students, and just had this role like within the last three years within enrollment.

Constantine: Ok, and where do you currently live?

Dawn: I live in Battery Park City, in downtown New York.

Constantine: Ok, um why don't we start by you taking me through the course of that day; where you were, where you commuted if you commuted from, or anything like that.

Dawn: Ok, at the time I was living in Little Falls, New Jersey, um I've lived in downtown New York for many, many, years, but ironically the spring before 9/11, uh my husband and I decided, well we weren't married at the time,  but uh Ernie Webber, who’s my husband now, we decided to move to New Jersey, to save up money to actually buy an apartment in New York City, we knew we wanted to stay downtown. So we were living in Little Falls, New Jersey, and what my daily trip to Pace would entail is taking the train to Hoboken, then taking the ferry over to the World Financial Center, and walking from there to Pace.

Constantine: So, NJ Transit to Hoboken and then Hoboken…

Dawn: And then Hoboken, I took the ferry across the water, and would walk over to Pace from there. That morning, and you've heard this from everybody, it was a beautiful morning, and I really very vividly remember how pretty of a day it was. We had just finished orientation; at the time I was Assistant Dean for Students, and uh was responsible for orientation, so this was after orientation, which was like my major project for the beginning of the year, so I remember not being stressed out, because it was over, classes had started uh I remember…The reason I remember it being such a pretty day, I think I mentioned this to you before, is that I had…It made me think of a Dan Fogelberg song, which uh, which was a song that always when it's a real pretty day I think about, and I remember that going through my head. Because it was so nice, I would have two paths: either I would go, when you came into the World Financial Center, there was um like uh, you could go indoors, in through the overpass and down through the World Trade Center buildings and up the PATH station, so in bad weather I would do that, but it was such a nice day, I didn't want to stay inside. So I stayed to the uh north side of the towers, and walked.  Um you want all these details right I mean, you want me to go through the whole day and?

Constantine: Absolutely, every single detail, every single detail…So basically the weather was the difference you going through the World Trade Center or you going next to it…

Dawn: Yea. Absolutely, absolutely.  So I walked the north side of the tower. I remember um bumping into someone…I guess I look like somebody who knows where I'm going when I walk around because somebody did ask me how do they get into the World Trade Center. And I remember just showing them the entrances into the plaza and how to get up into one of the towers. And I walked my regular path which was alongside there, I crossed what was that Church Street to Vesey Street, past the little church, the St Paul’s Chapel. And I had just crossed uh Broadway, and was going up Anne Street, about maybe a quarter of the way or a third of the way up the street, and that's when I heard the plane crash.

Constantine: The first plane hit…

Dawn: The first plane, absolutely, and you know, I remember hearing it, I knew it was a plane, because it was flying way too low, um and uh there were a few people on the street, and you know, we were startled when we heard the plane crash...

Constantine: By just the sound, because you couldn't see it? From the vicinity from which you were…

Dawn: I couldn't see it no, no I was I was walking toward the east, and I had already gone into the uh, so I was walking away from it basically, but we heard the plane that it was so low flying and we heard the plane crash, and we were startled, like "what was that?” Some of the people on the street thought it was a bomb, but I um I knew that it was a plane because of my background; I grew up near an air force base, and would hear the low flying planes all the time, and that's a sound, very distinctive, very distinctive. We could not, from where we were though, we couldn’t see anything, because we were on Anne Street and then somebody who was walking by was saying  it was the World Trade Center, I don't even remember who, but then we all kind of walked up Nassau Street, and around the corner over to Fulton, so that we could see what was going on, and when we turned that corner, it was just like what you see on TV now...you know, the flames were coming out of the building, the sky was filled with papers, I remember that, and there was people just standing around watching it. We started to get, there was kind of a group forming and talking about what could have possibly happened.

Constantine: And your thought of it was...? Did you actually see the plane inside the building?

Dawn: Not at all, not at all.

Constantine: You didn’t see the plane. No plane.

Dawn: It was just the flames and the paper. It was immediately thought that it was an accident though I mean.

Constantine: Obviously, because it was the first one. 

Dawn: We didn't think about it being a nice day or anything, it just wow, what a terrible…

Constantine: I was just checking my time, coinciding with my notes.

Dawn: That it was uh…

Constantine: An accident...

Dawn: An accident. And I remember the thoughts that were going through my head, I mean, of course you immediately think " my God, how many people have just been killed, with this plane coming through there" and then, but my mind jumped right to, "and how are they going to fix it?" because you know, there’s now this huge gaping I don’t know, not that it looked like a hole at the time because it was flames but I was just thinking "wow that's so far up there, how are they ever going to fix the outside?"

Constantine: I have a question for you: some people thought that maybe the first one was maybe a small plane, a big plane; did you have any impression as far as the size of the plane that hit it maybe?

Dawn: No, I guess I jumped to the conclusion it was a small plane, just simply because...Who else would make an accident? You know? It never occurred to me that was a commercial jet, would have made a mistake like that, so I guess my, but I wasn’t thinking in those terms, but I well guess in my heal I’m thinking it could only be a handful of people coming in, that just, the pilot was inexperienced, or a heart attack, who knows what it could have been, that caused them to go into the tower. And then, I'm trying to remember, putting it in order, I remember that there was a woman there, very, very upset, because her family, she had an apartment not far from there, and her husband, and I think daughter, were still there, and she was afraid something could happen to them, and I remember trying to...relax her, by saying you know probably nothing could have fallen that far, because it was several streets away, and she was worried that the building might fall over, and I was like “no,  that you know if it didn't fall over with the crash, it’s not.” And I was telling her about when the tower, in the 19 is it 93 bombing, and I remember telling her that, this is from the top, it's not going to push it over. That if that didn't do it, this isn't going to do it either. And so she felt more relieved, and in our conversation I found out that she was a professor here at the university, and uh so I told her I was walking; we started walking together towards the university. She was very shaken up though. I mean, I thought it was an accident, and I felt bad for what happened, but I guess I wasn't all shook up by it at that point. And so I was trying to talk to her, and I remember her not knowing whether she should go to class or not, and I recommended just you know go, if you feel like you need to cancel class you know, try to call your family, I remember that, if you can't get in touch with them then go but you know just call. And so we talked, and walked back to the university. Then um, one reason I went back to the university, is because, you know, you don't realize it is on the news everywhere, and I wanted to let the security office know

Constantine: So as far as you going back to the university, which building were you going back to, the main one?

Dawn: I was going to walk to, well my office was in 41 Park Row at that time, but I wasn't headed there. I was headed for the security office in the main building. Because I wanted to let Richard Abbananti, who's the director know about it, because back in ‘93, a lot of people, when they were vacating the building, they came over to the university to use bathrooms, and telephone banks, and things like that, so I wanted him to be prepared, to know, that this happened. So I walked back to the university. He was not in his office, he was already I think up talking to the president.

Constantine: Okay, so he had probably already been aware of the situation you’re saying, Richard Abbananti.

Dawn: He was. When I got there I went in, and the security staff told me he’s with the president, he knows about the...

Constantine: So the security staff was aware?

Dawn: They were aware by the time I got there, so I was like okay so then I left, because I was going back to 41 Park Row, and then when I went to 41 Park Row, I wanted to see it one more time, because that was quite some sight. And so I went over near where the Starbucks is there right now...

Constantine: Downstairs over here?

Dawn: The one right on City Hall Park.

Constantine: Okay, okay.

Dawn: On City Hall Park, that Starbucks, I walked over from the main building to get a look, and that's when I saw that both towers were on fire. I didn't hear or know about the second plane hitting at the time. As matter of fact, that's when I was first like, "this is a serious fire!" because I thought that the flames had spread to the second tower, you know.  I didn't know about the other plane, and I thought "wow, that’s much worse of a fire than I thought it was" because the wind actually blew it from one tower and caught the second tower on fire, that's what I thought. When I got to the front of 41 Park Row, the Dean for Students was there, I remember that, and she was already getting people to congregate in the main building. Not that you had to, but I told her, because I told her let me go to the eighth floor and see how my staff is doing. And that's what I did, I went up that and I um…

Constantine: Yea, all I’m doing when I’m doing that, is checking my notes.

Dawn: I know, I’m sorry.

Constantine: It’s okay.

Dawn: When I got to the eighth floor uh, the staff was in there. They had the radio on, there was a um, I’m trying to remember if we knew whether it was an accident or, well yea by then they knew it wasn't an accident in the office, because the second plane had hit, and they were telling me about that. And that's when I found out it was not the flames spreading, it was the second plane. And we didn't know what to do, we were up on the eighth floor.

Constantine: Just to go back for a second, so you hear the second plane hits, anything going through your mind? As far as why the second plane hit, or anything like that? Or just kind of going through...

Dawn: We knew that it was intentional at that point, at that time it was the "oh my God, somebody actually intentionally hit with the planes to the towers. We knew it was some kind of terrorist attack. Um yea, we had the radio on, and then at that point we didn't know what to do. We still felt fairly far away from it, but on the other hand, it was very scary because we didn't know what else might happen, if they hit two buildings. But as of, we had some students up there, and there were staff members, and we decided that rather than go over to the other building, we were going to stay put, because we had each other.

Constantine: In Part Row?

Dawn: In 41 Park Row, on the eighth floor. We felt um...you know, we had telephones, we were very comfortable there. We knew where the bathrooms were, we had our offices, and thought that that would be a better place to stay. Um, and we were listening to the radio, I remember on the radio we heard about the plane hitting the pentagon, and that's when it got very scary, to be honest. I think that was the point where everyone was like, "wow...what's really going on now?" Um and there were, I remember the students, talking to them, some of them had actually seen people jumping out of the buildings, which I didn't see, but there were students on the floor who did, and um Dani, who's a female, she also saw somebody jumping out, she was telling us that story. So we were all just kind of just talking together, and...let me try and remember...it was in Hope's office, who was the, Hope was the Assistant Director for Student Life, we were standing there, and she started screaming at what she saw out the window, and I looked, and there was smoke forming. And if you look down, because her office we look down, you can’t see the tower, but you can see the people who were all out on the street, and they're starting to run, you know, away from the building and we see the smoke coming;  we thought that something...  a bomb or something was going off there. Um, and then we heard like it’s the...the only way I can describe it is like a "rat-a-tat-tat", it sounded like things were hitting the side of the building, and we thought that there were gun, it was gunfire, and bombs, and that's when we got very, very, scared. I remember screaming to everyone to get away from the windows, and for everybody to get down on the floor. And everybody kind of, we all pulled everybody to the center of the room, and got down on our hands and knees, like under the tables and desks.

Constantine: So you heard explosions...like did you hear maybe a couple explosions or just that one explosion?

Dawn: It wasn't an explosion really, it was more like, I keep saying a "rat-a-tat-tat", it was like a 'tss-tssss-tssssss-tss-tssss-tssssss-tss ".

Constantine: Something coming down maybe?

Dawn: Well now...at the time, it didn't sound like something was coming down, it sounded like there were things hitting the building, like gunfire, it sounded like gunfire. We never heard an explosion, it sounded like things were hitting the buildings. And but we saw the smoke, so that's why we thought there's combat going on downstairs of some kind, um so that's when it was like "get away from the windows", we knew that, now we thought they could be all through the city, we didn't know if we were, what was going on, we didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t even think that. We just all hit the floor and then started to try to figure out what should we do? Should we stay up here? We’re on the eighth floor?"

Constantine: And you guys are under the table? Or...you guys are just on the floor...?

Dawn: Well, there were kind of desks around us, I mean yeah, not everybody was under a table, but we were shielded by some desks and things.

Constantine: This explosion or this "rata-tat" happens, how long after do you guys decide maybe to get up and start thinking of what you're going to do?

Dawn: Well, we stayed on the floor, to figure out what we were going to do. I mean, it’s...you know when I'm with the people who we experienced the same day, we still laugh about that you know. That it’s like a sight in a movie: we're all on the floor talking to each other, like should we stay, should we go... and we definitely thought that, because we were on the eighth floor, if they did explode or something, you know, we could get trapped, or fall, or whatever. We thought it was safer, down on the, getting closer, closer to the first floor.

Constantine: Okay, closer to the first floor.

Dawn: We didn't necessarily think we should go to the ground level, but we thought, "hey, let's be in a place where we can get out of this building, if we need to.” And um, and that was a little eerie, the thought you have to actually go down into where what was happening, was happening.  In our heads at least, that's what we thought.

Constantine: Right, you felt like you’re going right into it.

Dawn: Yeah, but we felt that that was safer than just being up high in the building, not knowing if we would get trapped or whatever. So um, so we started clearing the floor, especially Hope. Hope was really very cool, calm, and collected, and was able to think and she had a lot of the suggestions that were happening. And um, we were you know going. On the 8th floor there are students. There are student club offices, and so she was going door to door to make sure that they were coming out and I was going to go to the next floor, and we were kind of going down the floors trying to get people out. Um we uh, she and the students everybody was pretty much ahead of me going down, we were going down. Now all of sudden, I'm remembering, I had coffee. I remember spilling coffee all over the floor as I was going down the steps. Um I only made it as far as the fourth floor, Or not even that far, yea, as far as the fourth floor when I realized, because the stairwell was starling to fill with smoke, and because it was a nice day, people had their windows open, and so the eighth floor, we realized we left the windows open and the doors open and now the smoke front outside was coming in.

Constantine: So much so, so intense so that you couldn't see or just like?

Dawn: We could see, but you could feel it in your throat. We were afraid it was going to get too smoky on the inside. So um, I’m trying to remember...the order is a little confused now...I remember on the fourth floor a student, Navjot, who I knew through student activities, and he worked in the education department, he came upstairs with me, to close, what we did was we closed the doors to the office.

Constantine: Back up to the eighth floor?

Dawn: Yeah, we ran back up to the eighth floor to close the offices and shut the doors so no more smoke could get down into the uh elevator, into the uh I’m sorry, stairwell area. And what I don't remember...I think by the time I hit the fourth floor — I think the order was that, he explained to me that it wasn't gunfire — that the building had come down, because I remember Navjot taking me to the window to show me, and that, you could not see outside it was totally opaque. Um and actually, I think that's what made us want to run back upstairs; because we realized what it looked like outside, and this was seeping into the building. And then we ran up and shut the doors, and then ran back down. And by this time, it was very, very, cloudy. I mean, you could see in front of you, but it was like you were in a fog. And um going down the steps, I remember somebody, on the second floor, they have bathrooms, and we were stopping off there to get wet paper towels to put over our face, somebody had made that suggestion as like a makeshift face masks. And we did that by the time we got down to the first floor, the security, they were evacuating everyone to go over to the main building. Um and we went outside, the atmosphere had settled a little bit I mean, it wasn't opaque anymore, but it was still all in the air.

Constantine: Now, you're outside crossing with students ... are you seeing anybody on the street? Or is it just kind of empty just running across?

Dawn: There might have been some people in the street; I don't really have a memory one way or the other. Um but it wasn't, it wasn’t a mob scene, let me put it that way, I didn’t feel that it was a mob scene. There might have been people walking out there, but for the most part people were trying to get indoors...it seemed to me at the time. So we went in and we went down to the gymnasium, which is where security was directing people. And I began looking for Richard Abbananti again, to see if he needed help. Um that uh, but I couldn't find him, and so we went down to the gym, and we were trying to figure out what we can do.

Constantine: What's the gym like?

Dawn: The gym is pretty chaotic. I mean, a lot of people are down there.

Constantine: Students, faculty, security?

Dawn: Yeah, security I remember having um the bullhorn type thing, trying to calm people down and direct them where to go. Um and I'm looking for people, to see how can we help, what can we do? Because I worked with student activities, I thought it was pretty much part of my role to try to help.

Constantine: Like it was your duty?

Dawn: Yeah, very much so, that that's what would be expected of me, and the staff. But there was a lot of smoke down there too. It was down there that I um uh heard about the second building collapsing. Because there were students watching...there were TVs in the cardio vascular room, and there were students watching the news in there. Um and I remember hearing them say "Oh my God, the second building came down". And I was in the gym at that time, I remember that. And we kind of,  we meaning the people in my office, we kind of got split up at that point, we were trying to figure out what we should do next. And we wanted to get everybody back together. I mean, once we got down there, for whatever reason, we didn't stick together. I guess people just felt, "Ok, we're here," but then we wanted to stick together, so we started kind of um...people looking for people, saying "ok, when you find this person, come back here." We stayed at one spot — "bring this person back, bring this person back." And once we had everybody that we came over to the building with, we decided we didn't want to stay in the gym —we thought the higher we went up...now that we knew we weren't under attack, it was a little more...we felt a little better about it. But we thought the smoke was really the thing that had everybody scared. At that point, were we going to breathe? You know? Because nobody knew, nobody knew what they were breathing. But we decided to head up the stairs — we walked up to the third floor and when...Oh! And I forgot that getting over there, the book exchange.

Constantine: Yes, the book exchange. Because that’s very distinct, very distinct story.

Dawn: You know, I'm making it sound like everything happened like this (snaps fingers), and it didn't, there was stops on the way. When I came over from 41 Park Row, we came in and we were going down to the gym, but I stopped off at the student union, because the book exchange… well I’m not sure if it was because it was going on, but I knew that students hang out there, and I knew the book exchange, and I was so surprised—there were students, this vision I remember, standing in line, to buy books. Now, this is, this is before the second tower came down. The first one had come down, everybody's being told, yea everybody’s being told to come down to the gym, and students are in line to buy these cheap books. And I remembered going in there, and uh the two students who were in charge of it, I remember telling them they had to close down—they could not continue. They were worried about what to do with the money, and what to do with the books, and we arranged...I said, "Don't worry, I'll have security lock the room." I said uh put, because they had cash boxes I said "Put all the money together. We’ll go over it. I'll keep it, I'll be responsible for it" So they gave me the cash box, locked it up, and I was like you’ve got to go down to the gym, and I waited there until security came and locked up the room, because it had all of these textbooks. And they took you know, so we made sure that room was secured — that's when I went down to the gym. Because I am walking around with this cash box everywhere that I'm going, protecting it. Um but that was a surprise to me, that the students, they knew something was going on, but I guess they just still wanted to get their textbooks.

Constantine: Right, they might have though you know they didnt realized…

Dawn: And the other students didn't know what to do, the ones running the book exchange, didn't know what to do with the books, and the money, I mean, they, they just needed someone to say, “It’s okay to leave, and go down to the gym."

Constantine: Right, which was you. You were the first person to tell them something...

Dawn: Right, right. So we locked it up, they went down stairs, and then after security locked the student union area, I went down to the gym. And that's when…

Constantine: And then after that, you went up to the third floor.

Dawn: Then we went up to the third floor, and those were um staff members and students who worked in the student's activities office. We all um kind of stuck together. We were trying to make phone calls, I remember that, that we had cell phones and it was like, sometimes people got through, sometimes they didn't. And we were really trying to figure out "What are we going to do now?"

Constantine: Did you get in contact with anybody at this time, on the third floor?

Dawn: I didn't, I had before I left 41 Park Row, when I first got into the office, the first thing I did was call my mother in Delaware, and tell her that "I know you're going to see on the news about what's going on in New York, but I'm safe." I wanted her to know. And I got through without a problem. Um then I tried calling her a little while later, and I couldn't get through—at that point the phones, with the regular land line phones, I couldn't get through. And I didn't try anymore, because they, at least my family had heard that I was okay. So some of the students got through, some didn't, we kept going...on the third floor there was also um payphones, so we kept trying to call by payphone or by cell phones, and we were just hanging out there trying to figure out now what to do. And we did talk a lot about...we wanted to be sure everybody could get home or could be safe, somewhere. Um we decided...we knew that they um, how did we know that there were no trains? We knew that there wasn't public transportation; I guess that was just through word of mouth, or through communication.

Constantine: Public transportation within New York, or just in general.

Dawn: Well, all of us took public transportation in New York, so that's what we were...like I, how was I going to get to New Jersey? How are some, some students lived in Brooklyn, how were people going to get home? And so we just...Hope was able to get in touch with her brother, Dan, who lived in the SoHo area, or Houston St. area, and we were, we decided we would go up there, and worry about it from his apartment.

Constantine: To go to Hope's brother's apartment?

Dawn: Yeah, Hope called her brother, and her brother was like, "Fine bring everybody up here.”

Constantine: Can you give me a time frame, if you can remember about maybe what time you guys left Pace University?

Dawn: It seems to me that we left around 1:30, 2:00 o’clock.

Constantine: 1:30, 2:00 o’clock. And so the collectively, the whole group was going to Hope's apartment or, other people found some ways. Some of the other students? Because I remember you saying there were students and there were co-workers.

Dawn: Yeah, the um, there were a couple of students who found other students that were going to go to a friend's house or whatever, our group at that time, I'm trying to think, it was me, Dani, um Hope, Samara, Laura, yea because um, oh gosh she would kill me I can’t remember her name, I know she decided not to go with us, she had a friend. Laura, Hope, Samara, Dani and me, I guess there were of five of us who decided to go.

Constantine: A group of five of you to go to Hope’s brother’s apartment?

Dawn: I might be forgetting someone, they would never forgive me.

Constantine: It’s okay.

Dawn: I think it was the five of us who decided to go up. But there were other people with us, but a couple of the students had other friends, or other places, that they were going to go. So we decided we were going to go. Um yea, it was five because we counted out about five thousand dollars in the cash box, and everybody took a thousand dollars, because what we did, uh we, we started worrying about looters, we started worrying about why... you know what, why we thought of things like that? When there was the blackout in New York, at least back in the um in the late 70s, there was a lot of looting and problems, crime going on—and I think we talked about that, the fact that there might be a lot of people taking advantage of the situation. And so we wanted to be sure; we didn't want one person to have all five thousand dollars. As long as everybody split up, if something happened to one person, they could help out the other. Or, if we got split up, that if you wanted to get a room for the night or something, you'd have cash on you to do that. That’s why we did that and so we had the plan, we split the money. And uh one thing that I always say, the only two people who had any kind of belongings with them was me and Hope. We had, before leaving, we had taken our bags with us. Uh the other, the students and others had nothing. Everything was left in those offices. Um so then we uh we were sort of getting it together, and at that time security actually came by and told us we had to leave the floor. They were evacuating the whole building and or no! They told us we had to go back down to the gym. We got to the first floor; we were deciding to leave at that point, we weren't going to go down to the gym. And I remember we stopped in the admission office, because I talked to the director of admission, Richard Alvarez, and asked him if he had a radio, because that was the one thing that none of us had. We didn't have a way to know what was going on. And he actually, at somebody's desk, found a radio and gave it to us and said that you know we could use it. So at that point, we also at that point saw the police coming in. The police were trying to get everybody out of the building. Security was sending us down to the gymnasium, but at this point the police were coming in and saying no, everybody had to leave the building, and start walking north.

Constantine: Everybody had to…And going north. Okay. Alright.

Dawn: Um probably, they would allow a skeleton crew to stay behind—and I remember being very conflicted about whether I should staying to help, or whether I should leave, and um you know to this day I always still a bit of a guilt feeling there about why didn't I stay and help the university? But. I didn't, we all was like, the police want us out of here, we’re gone.

Constantine: Right, well you were just following orders from the police, because that's the highest level…

Dawn: Yea, what I was saying was that the police were evacuating the building, telling people to start walking north. I don't know if I mentioned already, but we got the radio, yea I did mention that. So the five of us left the front of Pace Plaza going out, this is after the second or sometime after, figuring about 2 o’clock, sometime 1:30, 2 o’clock when we're leaving the actual building and heading north, and we um went out the main entrance, went up, had to go under the what is that the Park Row underpass...I'm trying to think, we went... Yeah, we went uh I remember going up under the overpass because once you go to the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge, the north side of it—the air was very, very clear.

Constantine: So the north side of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Dawn: Yea and, it was I remember looking back and it just being so surrealistic; well first of all it was surrealistic because everything was covered in this white dust or whatever. And I had a face mask—somebody had gotten a face mask, and I was the only one with it, the others in the team didn't have it. But they gave it to me because I was the oldest that was part of the joke.

Constantine: When you were exiting the uh the building and you're going to the north side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Are now there are people or there’s more people around?

Dawn: There are, again it’s not a huge amount of people, it didn't feel like it, but yeah, people were walking north. We were like following other people who were headed up in that direction.

Constantine: And same kind of  uh, same kind of emotion? A kind of confusion, what happened kind of thing?

Dawn: Yeah, we were in awe that the buildings were gone. And it was very weird outside...and the air, I mean although it had settled, it wasn't clear, there was still dust flying all around. And um, yeah just not quite I mean we knew that the buildings had come down, and that was really the extent of it um, uh we, I should step back, it was right before we left that we also found out that there was a plane, the in Pennsylvania that was shot down

Constantine: Oh, you found out about the Pennsylvania plane before uh you left?

Dawn: Before we left the building, but um, but that was after we went up to the third floor. I mean we were up in the third floor for a while. And we came down, and uh I remember it still being very chaotic in the building itself. A lot of students walking around, people not really quite sure what they were planning to do. Um but we once we left, I remember it being quiet outside. And um people I think just stunned about what was going on.

Constantine: So at this point, uh you're not hearing like fire—you said it was quiet outside so were was no fire trucks or anything?

Dawn: There might have been, but I didn't hear them. I have no, at that point, I don’t have memory of, I guess some sirens, I remember hearing the sirens more later, afterwards, when I’m walking to go home. But on the way, I don't have a memory of it, though I’m sure that they were out there.

Constantine: So it's the group of five of you walking from the north side of the Brooklyn Bridge to Hope's brother's?

Dawn: Yeah, we went under the Brooklyn Bridge, started walking north, and that's where the air got very clean. And the other thing I remember, there were people out, there were a lot of people starting to come out from the different businesses. Um, there were, there were signs, handwritten signs up saying “restroom available here" and you people asking if they wanted to go and donate blood, and it just seemed like everybody, everybody was out, trying to do something to help.

Constantine: Already, asking for a donation of blood, wow.

Dawn: Yeah, absolutely suggesting to people, that’s the way. You know if you have time, we suggest that you, you know go to a hospital to give blood, because at that point you know everybody thought that it was, you know, there were going to be survivors and there was going to be...so everybody wanted to—the feeling on the street was very much "Do what you can to help out." But we just, at this point we're just walking up to uh Hope's brother's house. And um that's really the walk, that's all I really remember, the long walk, and that. ..

Constantine: How long, would you say?

Dawn: I don't know, like a half an hour I would think. I remember being glad that I was not in bad, terrible shoes, but that was a question, I remember us all thinking "Oh, what a day to have heels on," or something like that. My shoes were okay, although I don't remember which ones they were, but I remember I think someone in the party had difficulty walking after a while. Um and we got up to the apartment, and Hope's brother was there, and we were all starving because none of us have had anything to eat at this point the entire day. Unless you know whoever had breakfast or whatever, but it's now late afternoon and so, Hope's brother and a friend of his who was there, they went to a local deli and they bought lots of uh lunchmeat, and bread end stuff to eat. And uh it was, while I was there, um actually—my husband works at a middle school in New Jersey and his principal called me, to make sure that I was okay.

Constantine: On your cell phone?

Dawn: On my cell phone. And it was up there, that the call got through. And the principal was actually in tears, crying, saying "Ohhh! I can tell Ernie that you're okay." And it’s like, ''Yeah, I'm fine." You know? I didn't even try to call him.

Constantine: Yeah, because messages didn't get to Ernie at all pretty much for the whole day.

Dawn: No, not for the whole day. I never thought of...because he's a school teacher, and I'm just thinking, he's in school all day, I wouldn't think that they would know this. I mean, the other thing that was a surprise to me was like how the whole country knew about it.

Constantine: Because you thought it was a very isolated incident.

Dawn: Exactly, it never occurs to you that the whole world is like...Because to me, it was like "I'll tell Ernie when he gets home from work what happened today." You know, you're not thinking everybody knows what's going on. But it was there that we saw the TV for the first time, and we were sitting there eating the sandwiches at Hope's brother's, and watching the TV and they were showing the repeat of the buildings going down over and over again, and we were just in shock at that point, going "Oh my God! Look at that!"

Constantine: We were just in it...

Dawn: We were just there, but it didn't look like that at all, the feeling wasn't like that at all. So that was…Um we were there for, I don't know, I guess about an hour. We didn't know what we were doing, that was the other thing, we were trying to listen - are the trains going to get started again? How are people getting to wherever? I know that Dani and uh Samara had decided that they were going to walk to Brooklyn, um that the trains weren't going ... they lived in Brooklyn, but the two of them were going to go over the Williamsburg Bridge, to get home. And um I heard that there was a ferry starting to leave out of the Wall Street um terminal, and, so my plan was to walk down to that uh ferry and get, get over to New Jersey and then at least figure out a way to get my husband to pick me up or do something. And Hope and Laura decided to stay, to spend the night at Hope's brother's. So this was and I remember this being about 5 o’clock in the uh afternoon, that I was like, well I'm going to head on back down. And that was a very strange walk, because I was on Houston, I had to walk over to the uh FDR, and walk downtown. And this is when I'm really, for the first time, observing what's around me.

Constantine: And this is by yourself?

Dawn: I'm alone. Yea

Constantine: Are you scared? Or are you just more, "I want to get there, and just get home."

Dawn: Not really scared, I must, scared just from the whole day, there was never the feeling that we were under attack again, so it's not that kind of fear. And, and I just wanted to get home, and that was the only way to get home. So and I figured there would be people walking all over, which there wasn't. I really thought that there would be, but uh it was just eerie. It was an eerie feeling.

Constantine: So you're walking down the FDR, and there's nobody even down there.

Dawn: Well first, crossing Houston Street and there's all of these like army trucks coming. There’s a convoy, that’s the word I’m looking for, just a convoy of the same truck over and over, with army personnel in them. And I remember that being, "Wow, this is uh, this is what it must feel like to be in a police state." Because all of a sudden, you have military all around you.

Constantine: Kind of like a foreign country, or something?

Dawn: Yeah, very, very different, uh I mean up there, you didn't have the smoke and the white anywhere, but there's no cars on the street at all and now I do hear sirens. You know they're kind of in the distance, but you hear sirens coming. It was just one truck after another, after another. That's when I walked over to the FDR drive, walked uh south, and that was strange because there were no cars. Occasionally a police car would come on the FDR...

Constantine: On the FDR, but it was empty…Especially strange at 5pm?

Dawn: Yeah, that's what I mean. It was just like…

Constantine: Rush hour… nothing…

Dawn: It was very strange...The whole environment of the city, everything got very quiet, um where you normally hear the buildings and...for whatever reason it just seemed very quiet. And I walked down, aside the, not on the FDR, but down like South Street I guess that is, or walking down under the FDR. And there were some people walking around, not a lot, but enough that you didn't feel totally isolated but I wasn't with anybody. And it was when I got down to the seaport, that, on the ground I mean again you had some residual of the white dust starting to form, but that's also where a lot of papers were. A lot of the papers that were flying, and they burnt and they had burned singes.  I mean the um the edges were singed burned, and I actually remember taking one as a souvenir, saying that you know wondering where it came from. It’s just all accounting information, all over it, but it’s got burn marks all the way around. Yeah it’s uh and then I got down to the um Pier 11, and I remember asking, "Where does this go?" And the answer was just "Jersey." I mean, well what was the uh? Is it hmm, God what’s the name of the stop that it went to? It was not the stop that I was heading for.

Constantine: It wasn’t Hoboken.

Dawn: It wasn’t Hoboken, because I asked that and they were like no this is if you want to go to Jersey this is the only boat crossing.

Constantine: Maybe Jersey City or something?

Dawn: Yeah, something, it was further south than Hoboken. So I got on the boat, and I actually bumped into three Pace students who were there. Um two of them who had worked in my office. And from there I found out that everybody in the residence hall, originally all the students in Maurice Tower, they weren't sure what was going to happen. But they were all told that they had to find a way home; they couldn't stay. And that’s when I found out about is it Building 7 that fell at the end of the day?

Constantine: Yeah, at the end of the day right, World Trade Center 7.

Dawn: Uh yeah, World Trade Center 7, they, those students were telling me about that, and evidently Pace's communications and everything were in that building, and once that building fell, they couldn't support the students staying in the residence hall anymore. And so all the students had to find their own ways home. And so I stuck with the three students for a while, we were trying to figure out how they were going to get home, and I was telling them they could come home with me if they wanted to, we'd stick together until we found a way. Um we got over to, across the river, the ferry ride from there to the other side was like nothing I've ever experienced. Because nobody would say it - once we got out on the water and you could really see the tower I mean the smoldering of the just the area, people didn't a word. Everybody was just standing like standing still.  It was like a movie, I don't know how else to describe it. People did not talk, they were in shock, all of us were, as we just looked at that. Because here it was there for such a long, you can't imagine the skyline without it I mean you know at the time. And it’s just these two huge buildings gone, and there's just smoke coming out of the ground there.

Constantine: And at this point it’s still 5 o’clock, so the smoke's still pretty heavy.

Dawn: Oh yeah!

Constantine: At that point.

Dawn: Oh yeah! You can't really see anything but a big, bulbous smoke in that area. You can't really see through it or anything. It’s, it’s you can see you know, you know why it's all cloudy downtown because it’s still coming out.

Constantine: So the ferry eventually takes you to...

Dawn: Yeah it takes across, I’m trying, I can't remember the name of the pier, but it's further down. It’s close to where Liberty Science Center is, it was down in that area, because I remember going "Oh gosh, how am I going to get to wherever I'm going from here?" Once we got off, there was a whole triage center, setup with medical personnel and they were asking us "Is there anybody hurt? Does anybody need any medical attention?" But we were like "no, we're just trying to figure out how to get home." And then I remember somebody pointing us in a direction, telling us that there were shuttle vans coming by, that uh, might take us to where we need to go. And we did get onto a shuttle bus, and it told us it would take us as far as Journal Square, I remember that, because I remember being a PATH station and we weren’t sure if the PATH trains were running or not. We got there, and they were, and uh we got of course we didn't have to pay anything, you know it's funny that I remember that now. But we took the PATH train to Hoboken. And um as we got there, sometime around then they all decided that they were all going to go to Rachel's house, because I think it was Nutley, she has a train to Nutley, and that was when you know I got there waiting to take a train to Little Falls. And I did, and um I guess I got home then about uh 8:30.

Constantine: 8:30 at night.

Dawn: Yeah, I remember it was before 9 o’clock.

Constantine: Your husband picked you up or you just?

Dawn: No, I only lived at the time like a block and a half away, so I just walked home from there. That was my day!

Constantine: So you get home, and you then you had to tell your husband the course of events.

Dawn: Yep! Told him the story of everything that happened and of course we couldn't go back. A lot of it was then trying to find out what to do. Um I remember calling people I worked with, you know to find out what was going on at Pace University, and um you know it was, we, we had somewhat of a phone chain. I remember talking to Jeff Harter, who at the time worked with, was he Dean of Students at the time up in White Plains? And they were trying to put together some work crews to contact students and do things up from Briarcliff and he was going to get in touch with me if they needed my help. Because I didn't know how I was going to get there, because I didn't have a car to get up there. Um and I don’t know what else do you need to know from me? We didn't get back to Pace until 10 days later the building was closed.

Constantine: How about the day after? Obviously you didn't go into work. How are you feeling and how is the family?

Dawn: I remember just watching, being glued to the TV, to the TV. And all of it was petty emotionally draining, but I vividly remember on TV there was some like high school boy from the mid-west who wrote this really moving poem that he read on TV. And it was after he read that, that I just broke down and started bawling crying.

Constantine: So the days after, you say, within time 10 days before your communicating with Pace administration, I mean they’re obviously putting together some kind of contingency plan. Um so you returned to Pace...?

Dawn: I actually went in on Saturday, following the Tues… it happened on Tuesday. And I went in even though you weren't allowed down in that area, I mean every, even though you weren't allowed in the area, when I went to a checkpoint and I just said I work at Pace University, I'm going down to help.

Constantine: And that's this Saturday?

Dawn: Yes, the Saturday immediately following 9/11. The school was still closed, but see one thing what my job when I was in with campus activities, we always very much involved in the emergency management, you know, like fire, evacuating residence halls — emergencies, whatever emergencies were, and had a close working with the dean for students, and security. And I came in, mostly just to see if I could help. Again, we didn't know what was going on. Because the front of Pace was all set up as a triage center also. So I was mostly just coming in to volunteer, because what was I doing in Little Falls? And but they didn't need any help, everything was pretty much under control and I brought my video camera, I also wanted to film what was happening down there, and so I did walk around and take some pictures. You could only go as far as Fulton Street though. And there were, there were um uh military all over, you couldn't get just to any place.

Constantine: So you were able to actually enter the building, the Pace building?

Dawn: Oh yeah, yeah I was in the Pace building. I could not go up to my floor though, but they did let me in, in Park Row. I mean, that was closed and off limits to everybody, but I talked to security. I just wanted to make sure things were secure because we left so fast, and we knew that the students had left all of their belongings, and I wanted to make sure it was all safe. And so they told me that they secured everything, but they did let me go up and look, just to make sure it was okay.

Constantine: The book exchange—what ever happened with that whole situation?

Dawn: Oh yeah, yeah. Well once we got back, um everybody brought the money. Nobody used any of it. Everybody brought it back and gave it and we deposited it. But that wasn’t for like two week you know ten days after.

Constantine: Still an interesting story. So can you remember...I guess classes resumed, maybe two weeks after?

Dawn: Yeah, I remember for whatever reason in my head it was 10 days.

Constantine: Ten days, classes resumed.

Dawn: So it was probably, no that would make sense I’m thinking now was it the Monday after…I think it was the Monday after, not the first Monday but the second Monday I think.  But that’s more than ten days I don’t know why ten days is in my head unless it was ten class days.

Constantine: That you returned to the school so maybe…

Dawn: But I do remember that we had um...my husband also, at the time had a T-shirt business, banner business, and he made me a huge banner that we could that was like welcome, "Welcome Home" and uh there, I can't remember exactly, but they wanted students, they wanted all students  to come and check in. We were really trying to make sure that all students were there. So there was like a place for resident students to go to check in, if you were a commuter, faculty and staff, they wanted you to sign in the first day. So I, the reason I remember this, is because I brought this banner in, and it was weird because I got searched because it’s in a tube, you know, wrapped up and here I am carrying this big thing and I remember the uh the military stopping me, and I had to open it all up, and that was the first time...I was like "wow, it’s never going to be the same again." That really, when they had to open up the cardboard tube 1 had to check out this is what I was carrying, is when I thought "the world's never going to be the same."

Constantine: Right and they were suspicious of anybody, even someone such as yourself who worked at Pace University...

Dawn: Yes, even me, I needed to show that. And we had made ribbons with little flag pins we went and purchased, so everybody coming in, we were greeting everybody on the steps and giving them pins.

Constantine: Right, um and can you remember anybody...I guess most of the students did return, resident students also did...?

Dawn: Actually, we were surprised, through the student life office that so many students did return. There was a real fear with the university — especially since this is just a week after classes started, and we were mostly concerned about...concerned about everybody but especially the freshmen who, you know here, they haven’t had a whole week of class.

Constantine: In New York of all places...

Dawn: Why even bother coming back? And surprisingly, most students came back. There were some cases of students who were just too upset and could not come either uncomfortable...Some returning students...like I do know that we had um we had residence halls at that time, very close to World Trade Center site. It was on West Street...

Constantine: New School?

Dawn: No, it wasn't New School...No this was, we had rented places on West Street, um and evidently some of the students who were there that day had very traumatic experiences, and I know that there’s a handful that did not come back, who lived over there. But most students did—we were surprised, we really you know and and by spring, I think we were right back to normal again.

Constantine: By spring time. Okay. Um now as far as I guess um the years to come I recall you saying something about a ritual that you guys do every September 11th

Dawn: Oh, the September 11th.... it’s a breakfast, with the five of us. Um who spent or at least that’s the plan. We do get in touch with each other, the five of us. The first anniversary, I did not go to that, because I just wanted to stay home and watch it on TV, but I understand the other four got together. And then the following year, all five of us got together. And this, this past year, I can’t remember I guess the two years we all got together. But this past year we didn’t but we all called, you know got in touch with each other. And for me, I remember telling you before, that on 9/11, I have not come to work yet. On and now I guess last year I think it was on a Saturday.

Constantine: Right, it was.

Dawn: But they, they do a reading of all of the names, and I've made it a personal ritual to sit and listen to every single name as it's being read, and it takes like over two hours to do that. Um um but that’s, you know I don't know that I’ll ever go back to work on 9/11, because that really is a day that will last with me forever.

Constantine: And as far as your impressions, between I guess maybe how the university handled things, we’ll talk about diffident levels, how do you think the university was able to handle such a tragic event?

Dawn: I think, my own personal opinion, given…having never gone through something like this, the school did remarkably well. Ironically, and I'm trying to think if that was because of the Oklahoma City, or the counseling office, ironically, just maybe six months earlier  had gone to a conference about how to handle a major catastrophe on campus and handling an emergency. And I just remember thinking, "Thank God the counselors knew what to do!" Because the counseling center was really there for everybody when they came back, they really knew how to handle it. And in terms...I mean it was very chaotic that day, getting everybody down in the gym, but um but I don’t…having nobody going through that before, I think they did remarkably well, getting everybody organized and getting it back together again.

Constantine: And as for as the city and the government itself, what is your impression on how they were able to handle such a tragic event?

Dawn: Um I have nothing but highly positive things to say about the military and the government, and the city municipals, and how they handled it, myself.  Given that, it actually irritates me to hear criticism, because of you know it’s so easy to say well the communications systems should have been better or this should have been better but the way people came together that day and the weeks that followed um yea you learn from it.  But uh but I get annoyed when I hear criticism about any of like what happened with the firemen or the police, and yea things could have been better but who would know we’d be attacked like this.

Constantine: Especially so unexpected.  Because I’m trying to kind of compare and contrast between people who are so in it and experienced it psychically and let’s say somebody who was two miles away. Yes it effected everybody but I think it effected people on different levels. So it’s kind of interesting to see you know their impressions about things. Um what is your feeling about security measures you know currently that they’re implementing into this country.

Dawn: It’s funny that you say, it’s funny that you stay that only because I just came back from t traveling just this weekend. And I, since that time, have never been bothered by any of the airports lines and having to take my shoes off and pull out my laptop but I stood in line next to somebody who was really upset by it. And to me it's like it’s a small inconvenience to ensure the security. And I guess I still am very nervous about my own security. But the guy who was behind me and he happened to worked for the airline because I noticed his attire. And because he wanted me to write my congressman to complain about this and I remember saying well you know I don't mind it that much, it's a bit of an inconvenience. And his point was but they’re doing it all wrong. They’re meaning the security and the government

Constantine: The manner in which they’re doing it?

Dawn: Yeah, he’s saying that they’re focusing too much on what we’re bringing into the planes. Not enough on who is coming onto the plane. You know, his philosophy is it doesn't matter that you have a pair of scissors as long as we know who you are, and I don’t know what his answer was but he was extremely irritated by the line and having to go through all of that.

Constantine: But you’re still satisfied in which manner they’re doing things?

Dawn: I recognize it’s an inconvenience and I’m not happy with it but I have accepted it as this is what it takes to make sure.

Constantine: There is also another subject that is currently going on and if you don’t eel comfortable answering anything about it that will be perfectly fine. But it’s just something that is currently going on. They have a lot of these, I don't know if you've heard of the movie “Loose Change?”

Dawn: No

Constantine: Or it’s this movie about maybe it’s kind of a different take on the events of 9/11 or maybe movies such as “Fahrenheit 9/11” or anything like that.  What is your opinion…

Dawn: Where it has a political spin to it you mean?

Constantine: Not necessarily a political spin but uh you know the government says it happened one way and you know I guess certain groups of people are responsible. And theres kind of like you know maybe conspiracy theory or something like that. What is your opinion on that? If you’re not comfortable answering, that’s fine.

Dawn: I don’t mind answering it; I guess I don’t feel real qualified to answer it just because I’m not up on all of that. But uh, I don’t believe, I can tell you point blank I don't believe there was any governmental conspiracy for this to happen. I think the way that we have heard  it reported, I believe it to be true. That it you know it’s uh political sanctions with Al Queda with you know, Osama Bin Laden. I don't believe in any covert things going on. Now could I be wrong? Of course I could because I also don't know the inner workings of the government but I don’t put too much into that.

Constantine: Okay and um your impression of the media during the time. Do you think they gave an accurate portrayal, do you think they contributed to some of hysteria? Or what is your opinion of the media?

Dawn: Um, wow, no I have to say I admire what they did and I think they reported it well. I don't think…someone who was them I wanted to hear about it 24 hours a day. I know that, that became the complaint there took some time I had to get away. Maybe they maybe they, lasted too long.

Constantine: You think it might have lasted too long?

Dawn: Probably went too long with the coverage over and over and over again. But I was thirsty for wanting to know exactly what happened. And so any kind of new thing that came out, I wanted to know about it, and it took a while to get over that. I do remember being just glued to the TV. And it was finally tennis is what that took me away from it, because we, where we lived in Little Falls had a tennis court and I remember my husband saying come on let’s go play some tennis, let’s get out of this apartment, let’s go. And just being out there physically was good for me and that’s when I realized I shouldn’t be watching so much. Like I really am watching it too much.

Constantine: Time wise, a couple of months had elapsed after and then you’re realizing you had to get out and stop being glued to the TV?

Dawn: Probably like three weeks.

Constantine: Three weeks okay three weeks.

Dawn: About three weeks I would say. It didn't go on months and months but a few weeks of just being home and anytime I was home I was just watching TV and watching the news. So maybe that wasn't good for me that the media made that available to me I don’t know.

Constantine: And just a final question. They are planning to build new towers, what is your feeling about that do you think they should or do you think maybe they should take some more time with the memorial or?

Dawn: No at first, I'm looking forward to seeing something built. I’m of the type that’s like we’re not beaten. I do think a memorial needs to be there. When it first happened I was one of the people who strongly felt we should put up exactly what was there another duplicate of the two towers. That was totally emotional, because as I’ve really been interested in what they’ve talked about doing, and the fact that they can fix problems that they have. Now that you know, now that 30 years has past, there are better ways to build and design buildings. I’m just happy to see it progress. I do believe there should be a memorial there, but I’m not one of the people who think nothing should be there. I think we need to rebuild the way we were.

Constantine: You said just to kind of backtrack. You also, after I guess after a certain amount of time you did move from Little Falls back to New York…

Dawn: That’s right, actually before 9/11 my husband and I wanted to live downtown. We really thought Battery Park City was out of our financial reach, when 9/11 happened nobody knew what was going to happen downtown. But we felt committed we wanted to be there before and we felt committed to being part of the rebuilding of it even more. So we, it was at that point that we actively began going to open houses, and by that summer had bought an apartment in Battery Park City. Which is where we are no; and um yea we knew we wanted to be a part of it. And that’s I guess why I want to see something built there too, because I want to be a part of seeing how it all comes back again.

Constantine: Okay, well I guess that will conclude our interview. Again I greatly thank you so much.

Dawn: It’s my pleasure. Thank you for, for keeping the story alive.

 

 

 

 

Pace 9-11 Oral History Project


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