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New Yorkers remember 9/11 twenty years later

  • 14 September 2021
Giovanna Slon was just beginning her third year at Fordham University in the Bronx when a plane hit the World Trade Center on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. ‘At 8:47 my R.A. bangs on my door and tells me “You have to get up. There’s something happening.”’ 

In Midtown Manhattan, Glenda Castro had just come into work at America Magazine. The magazine had an unusual setup; on the first three floors was the business and the top six, a community of 25 Jesuit priests and brothers. The staff and Jesuits gathered together in the community’s sixth floor TV room to watch the unfolding story. As a second plane crashed into the second tower, it took her a minute to understand what had happened. ‘I’m thinking it’s just a replay of the first building,’ she says.

Miles away, Slon and the students assembled in their floor lounge thought the same. ‘Then you realize, no, we’re watching this in real time. That is another plane.’ Though Fordham is quite far from lower Manhattan, the students could see the smoke rising in the distance.  

Across from the World Trade Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, parish priest Fr Vincent Sullivan, S.J. was getting ready for a funeral. By the time he was alerted to what was going on both planes had already hit the Trade Center. ‘I think I heard the second one hit,’ he remembers. ‘They were both burning.’ 

After a quick errand, Sullivan stepped outside to discover one of the towers was now gone. ‘[The remaining tower] looked very tall and very lonely.’ It would soon follow its partner into the ground, killing everyone inside.

Twenty years later, these three New Yorkers have vastly different impressions of those days. For Castro much of 9/11 is a blur; what she remembers most is watching that television with her colleagues, their eyes ‘glued’ to the screen, the room silent. 

‘9/11 put a deep scar in our hearts and it led us to believe that anything can happen anywhere. It broke our hearts.’

For Slon it was an experience of being both unmoored and forced to grow. ‘For the most part you’re insulated in college,’ she explains. ‘You don’t really have responsibilities,’ and when problems arise there are ‘adults who can guide you, give you the answers you need.’ Suddenly she found herself in a situation where the adults were just as lost as the students felt. ‘It was