"I looked up and saw two people falling. They looked like paper at first. Then I saw the arms. That's when we started to run"

September 14, 2001

Every US university and college was affected by security concerns and high emotions after the attacks in New York and Washington, but none more so than Pace University.

The university, with 10,000 students, had a continuing education centre on the 55th floor of one of the World Trade Center towers, along with a campus in the shadow of the towers, whose collapse destroyed several off-campus university residences and cut phone and electricity services to the university.

One student, Jie Cheng, said she and fellow students had been told to leave the World Trade Center for what became a two-hour walk to safety. As she did, she said, "I looked up and saw two people falling. They looked like paper at first. Then I saw the arms. That's when we started to run."

Pace's student newspaper, the university's only link to the outside world after the attack, reported that students, staff and faculty were all safe, but said that the school was closed indefinitely.

Other New York and Washington institutions also cancelled classes, but most in New York remained open to shelter victims and to provide students with a safe place to stay.

Outside the affected cities, several institutions also shut, including California State University. Others offered seminars, prayer vigils and special services for distraught students. Staff at Boston College were told: "We would like to encourage faculty to continue to hold classes so that students can have an opportunity to talk and have an adult presence throughout the day."

Georgetown University in Washington DC scheduled Catholic, Protestant and Jewish prayer services, and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania scheduled a campus-wide meeting to talk about the attacks.

Across the country, all university athletic competitions were cancelled.

  • In the UK, the websites of many universities posted messages of sympathy to friends and colleagues who were affected. Student counselling services and university chaplaincies were made available to support staff and students who had friends and relatives involved in the disaster.

Glasgow Caledonian and Dundee universities stepped in to house hundreds of travellers stranded when their flights to the US and Canada were diverted to Glasgow.

  • Georgetown University economist Leslie A. Whittington was the first confirmed academic casualty of Tuesday's terrorist attacks. She was a passenger on the hijacked American Airlines plane that hit the Pentagon.

Professor Whittington had research interests in public finance, labour markets and family policy. A focus of her research was on the effects of income taxation on family behaviour and structure.

Georgetown president John J. DeGioia said: "All of us share in a sense of loss, a sense of violation, a sense of helplessness, a sense of anger. The tragic violence has already touched our community."

He added: "It is important that we look outwards. As a university community, we possess unique resources to offer our city, this nation, and the international community in responding to the implications of (these) events."

By THES reporters and correspondents and The Press Association

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