New York City before the towers fell
Credit: Thomas Svensson | Pexels
On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the country remembers the day that changed millions of lives forever.

CSU students, faculty and staff reflect on 9/11

Members of the Cleveland State community recount their experiences of 9/11 on the 20th anniversary of al-Qaida’s attack on the U.S. and give their thoughts on how perspectives have changed over the past two decades.

The average age of undergraduate students is 21 years old, meaning that most college students in 2021 are unable to remember the events of September 11, 2001. Even many faculty members were too young to fully grasp the totality of the attacks that the nation faced. Over the past two decades, the events of that fateful day have stuck with Americans — either in their own memories or in stories from others.

Perspectives on the situation have shifted in the 20 years that followed, especially in terms of reaction to Muslim culture. Students, faculty, and staff at CSU reflected on their experiences on that day, and they also shared their thoughts on how American society in the year 2021 views that historic day.

For full clips of what each interviewee said, click below to listen to this story as a podcast.

Audio file


  • “As a part of what some call the ‘9/11 generation,’ it's really the first major news thing I remember… There's so much stuff as an adult now — like I can't imagine getting on an airplane and not having the intense security that we've always had — having to take off your shoes, and not being able to take certain things, and things like that … How much [of our day-to-day lives] snowballed from that one specific event?”

    — Micaela Ostheimer, First-Year Experience professor

  • “I was only six or seven when it happened, but I still remember it because my dad was actually supposed to be on one of the flights [that hit the buildings], but his work trip got canceled. And so obviously he didn't get on it. I'm very grateful to this day that my dad is still here … [When] we got home from school, I saw the second tower fall. And that's when I started crying — I knew my dad was supposed to be on a plane, and I just kept asking my mom ‘Where’s Dad? Where’s Dad? Where’s Dad?’

    … I remember my parents telling me that the world was going to change a lot after this, and I never really noticed it changing until I became an adult … I notice that when I fly, if there's ever someone who is Muslim on my plane or a man who has [a turban] on his head, people are staring at him. They're judging him.”

    — Jasmine Crump, clinical mental health counseling student

  • “So my dad was on this base called Mount Weather — that's in Virginia — so he was stuck there for a couple of days. He couldn't really get back home because [he] worked for the federal government.

    My mom, she refused to ever get on a plane again. She's actually not been on a plane since the 90s — since it happened.”

    — Joey Wills, sophomore accounting major

  • “At the time, we were stationed over in Germany, which is where I was born because my dad was in the army … My mom got this call from her mom back in the U.S. and [she] was like, ‘You better turn on the TV right now.’ And so my mom did, and as soon as she turned on the TV, she watched the first of the towers fall. And she [was] absolutely terrified because she wasn't there, so she didn't know what else was going on. …

    … After the 9/11 attacks for the next month or so, there were these rumors that they were going to do the same thing to the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. And my aunt had to cross that every day to get to work. So every day … she would literally say ten Hail Marys crossing the bridge because she was terrified. Luckily, it never happened, but … there were so many rumors about what happened and what was going to happen because of misinformation and chaos and fear.”

    — Claudia Cromly, junior theater major

  • “When one of the planes — the one that crashed in Pennsylvania — flew over Cleveland, my dad works for NASA, so they had to go into lockdown because it's a government building. …

    My dad told me — which gives me chills — the first thing he did when he got home was take his name off our mailbox because my dad has a foreign name, so he didn't want anyone giving us problems. …

    I just can't imagine it happening. Everything that we did since 9/11 still is lingering … Putting yourself in that position, that must have been so scary — not knowing what's going on and everyone thinking it was an accident at first. It’s just spooky.”

    — Reem Abumeri, junior history and social studies major

  • “You hear a lot in the past couple of years, ‘Why can't every day be like September 12th?’ So I guess September 12th was [when] everyone was coming together … I can remember some of the sport things like the first baseball games that were in New York afterwards, and some of those being very big, kind of American-rally moments. But … at some point, closure happens — in some way, shape or form, and people move on. …

    I think one of the perspectives that really has started has been that we’re not invincible. America’s not … I think [9/11] lets us know that we are vulnerable, just like everywhere else in the world.”

    — Matt Knickman, Center for Student Involvement Director

  • “I saw a post yesterday on Instagram, a girl posting that her dad died during the 9/11 attack. I did feel [for] her — how she lost someone dear to her heart. I do still sympathize for families who [were] affected by this historical occurrence.

    … There are some stereotypes behind this event, like terrorism. We're in 2021, so there should be more awareness about who to blame for what happened and who not to.”

    — Nina Faisal, sophomore speech language pathology major

  • “I was a freshman in high school during 9/11. That event and day and week and year, made me realize that there are much bigger things happening in the world than being in my own little high school bubble. It gave me a more global perspective on what other people are going through. …

    Part of me is glad that I was alive to experience that and old enough to comprehend what was going on because it was just such a huge moment in our history.”

    — Kara Tellaisha, LGBTQ+ Student Services Coordinator

  • “My aunt was working at the Pentagon when things happened. Luckily, she was on a morning run and wasn't actually there, but because of her station, she had to actively jump into the rescue that day. …

    … The initial reaction was ‘We need war. We need planes. We need bombs. We need to get over there.’ And now I think we're out of it enough to say the dust has settled. We can still mourn those that were lost without attacking other people.”

    — Marty Barnard, masters of business candidate

  • “I think that there is unfortunately a stereotype around Muslim people, solely because of their part in 9/11. I think it’s been interesting now that the Taliban has taken over Afghanistan again, and hearing people say 9/11 is going to happen again. I know I've heard that a lot. It’s interesting that people instantly assume the Taliban is going to pull something else like 9/11 again.”

    — Ally Pavey, senior nursing major

  • “I was working at Case Western Reserve at the time. We all stopped and had a monitor up and we were watching it. It was the most devastating thing I've seen in my life. Unbeknownst to me, my son, who was five at the time, was watching it at school as well. They didn't turn it off. Parents were picking kids up, and I had no idea that he was even seeing it.

    And that really affected him because he felt abandoned. I didn't understand why the school would let him even watch it, but they did.”

    — Deborah Troupe, Department of Social Work professor

Twenty years after the events of 9/11, the ripples of what took place continue to rock the nation. From recalling miniscule details of that day to observing its impact in 2021,
the hijacking of four planes and attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. that killed almost 3,000 people remain a touchstone from which many Americans interpret the state of the world today.

None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.” — President George W. Bush.

For more information about the events of 9/11, head to