Honoring lives lost
Photos by Evan Krape September 10, 2021
UD community gathers on The Green to remember those killed in the 9/11 attacks
Gabrielle Issa, a senior communication major, was just 1 year old and resting in her mother’s arms on Sept. 11, 2001, watching on TV as the second hijacked plane hit the south tower of the World Trade Center — the building where her father was scheduled for a meeting on the 42nd floor.
“She thought she’d just lost her husband,” Issa said.
But her father was late to the meeting that morning in New York, sparing his life. Everyone else in the meeting died. “I’m very fortunate I still have my father,” she said.
That’s the message she wrote on a yellow ribbon outside Memorial Hall on Friday, Sept. 10, part of the University of Delaware’s commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Throughout the day, hundreds of students, faculty and staff shared their thoughts of remembrance, gratitude, sadness and resilience on the ribbons that hung in rows on The Green.
The display recalled the Ribbon Garden that emerged on the south Green in the days after the 9/11 attacks, which claimed the lives of five UD alumni in the World Trade Center and several people related to UD community members. A selection of those ribbons from 2001 is on display in the concourse near the West Lounge of Perkins Student Center. Information about all of UD’s commemorations is at udel.edu/remembering911.
Owen Bubczyk, a sophomore exercise science major from Thurmont, Maryland, was born after 9/11, but he still felt moved to honor those who died in the attacks: “Forever remembering the heroes who made the sacrifice that day,” Bubczyk wrote on one of the yellow ribbons.
The commemorations Friday began with a ceremony on the north side of Memorial Hall.
Kim Zitzner, UD’s religious and spiritual life liaison, opened the ceremony with a prayer for peace, strength, gratitude and compassion. Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton presented a city proclamation to Provost Robin Morgan that cited the remembrance and resilience of the entire community in the wake of 9/11 and Patriot Day as a day of service for the nation to commemorate the lives lost.
“This is a difficult morning for those of us who remember September 11th, 2001 … a day of violence that still echoes across the world today,” said Delaware Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola. He noted that passengers on Flight 93 took a vote before deciding whether to rush the cockpit in an attempt to stop the terrorists, a fundamental act of democracy and unity that ultimately prevented the plane from reaching the U.S. Capitol that day.
“I hope we remember who we are and who we aspire to be,” Sokola said.
State Rep. Paul Baumbach pointed out the symbolism of gathering at Memorial Hall, which was built to honor the 270 Delaware service members who died during World War I. They were trained in combat, unlike the nearly 3,000 civilians who died in 9/11, he said.
“For me, 9/11 brought a new and deeper respect for first responders,” Baumbach said. “Heroes exist everywhere, and we must honor them every day.”
The audience also heard from two members of the UD community who shared their personal experiences on 9/11.
Linda Irizarry, now a graduate student in communication, was a young mother living on Staten Island in 2001. She was running late to a meeting on the 33rd floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center that day. As she arrived in Manhattan, the first plane had already hit the north tower, and she saw the second plane hit the south tower, some 30 floors above where she was supposed to be. She fled uptown, “away from the nightmare.”
Trying to make her way home that day, a family she didn’t know let her stay with them, and a firefighter, already exhausted from working the World Trade Center site, drove her to her relative’s home in New Jersey before returning to work.
“Nearly everyone I knew had PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] from that day,” said Irizarry, who soon moved to Delaware to escape the painful memories of the experience.
Lauren Murray Simione, a 1995 alumna and now associate vice president in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, was working as a United Airlines flight attendant on 9/11, on her way from New York to Denver. Pilots on her plane heard the radio chatter from United Flight 93 as terrorists seized control, followed by passengers storming the cockpit. Her plane was quickly diverted to Chicago, where it sat on the tarmac for several hours because hundreds of other planes had also landed there unexpectedly.
During that wait, Simione and the passengers could not see video of the attacks, so they were unable to fully comprehend the severity of what had happened. Eventually, she heard the voicemails of family and friends who feared she was on one of the four hijacked planes, and she was able to reach her mother, who told her about the attacks.
“I heard sheer panic in my parents’ voices,” said Simione, pausing to compose herself as she related her story to the audience.
Simione, who continued working as a flight attendant for a few more years, said she focuses on “the strength and resilience of humankind” she witnessed that day.
The ceremony ended with a benediction from Prof. Ismat Shah, faculty adviser to UD’s Muslim students. Shah spoke at the candlelight vigil on The Green the evening after the attacks, and he said Friday that 9/11 had affected everyone in some way.
“May we live our lives honoring those who gave their lives,” Shah said.