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September 11, 2001: Student Reactions

Not since December 7th 1941 - another day of infamy - have we as Americans been able to record our history as a people simply by mentioning the date. It is rare when more than a small percentage of our people will focus on any single event. We are too heterogeneous, too involved with our own interests, to see any single event in the same way at the same time. September 11th 2001 - 9/11 - changed all that. Perhaps it hasn't changed anything permanently, but at least for that day and its aftermath, it forced us all to experience and feel the same things. We all felt the shock, and horror, and fear, and overwhelming anger. September 11th has come to stand for that point where we were shocked out of our old patterns and into a new world, where the past became the present, where illusion became reality, where friends became enemies and vice versa, where weakness became courage and where peace became war.

The brief essays Prof. Karin Zipf asked her class to write on September 12th 2001 capture that moment as if in amber. She asked her students to record their feelings about the events of the previous day. Every member of the class did so. She then asked them to donate their papers to the Manuscripts and Rare Books Department of Joyner Library so that they could serve as a record of the event and of their reactions to it. Every member of the class agreed to do so. The Manuscripts and Rare Books Department offered the essays and images of 9/11 as a temporary exhibit last year, on the first anniversary of the attacks; in cooperation with the Digital Initiatives Program of Joyner Library the Department again offers them as a permanent digital exhibit.

DAY OF INFAMY 2001: ECU History Students React to 9/11
On September 11, 2001, students at East Carolina University watched with the rest of the world as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. Shocked and horrified, many of them attended class the next day overwhelmed by emotion. Many expressed sadness at the loss of life and anger at the terrorists responsible for the act. Most expressed confusion and fear about the future. Some desperately hoped to hear from their friends or relatives who lived or worked near the towers. Few had ever heard the names "Osama bin Laden" or "Taliban" before the attack, but endless media accounts would imprint these names on their minds indelibly. These essays, produced on September 12, 2001, reflect the emotions of a handful of students at East Carolina University. The essays were produced in two sections of Dr. Karin Zipf's course, HIS 3140 "Women in American History." These essays reflect the students' private feelings. At the time, none had any knowledge that anyone other than Dr. Zipf would have access to these essays. In the months following, they came to a decision to donate these essays to East Carolina University's Manuscripts and Rare Books archive.

Dr. Karin L. Zipf,
Assistant Professor of History
November 29, 2001