Former KSU students and staff recall campus’ mood on 9/11

Robin Joynes, assistant professor at the department of psychology, was teaching a bio-psychology class on Sept. 11, 2001 when she was informed by another faculty member that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Kelley Tunney

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, sent overwhelming waves of sadness, fear and insecurity throughout the U.S.

Kent State was no different.

John Goehler, senior associate director of Dining Services, said he was working as a senior manager of Dining Services in Beall Hall when he heard about the attacks.

“We didn’t believe it at first,” he said. “We were all running to the TVs to see what was going on.”

Alyssa Bluth, a freshman fashion major at the time of the attacks, said most students were stunned and searching for clarity.

“I just remember the dorm being eerily quiet,” she said. “Everyone was just watching the news, glued to the TV.”

Richard Robyn, assistant professor of political science, said he walked to the Student Center with one of his students to watch coverage of the attacks. The atmosphere on campus shifted as everyone began to learn the truth behind the World Trade Center, Shanksville, Pa. and Pentagon tragedies.

“It was very subdued. Besides my student there, I don’t remember talking much with any other students,” Robyn said. “When classes were cancelled, I think that sort of changed things on campus.”

Robyn said students began to react with both fear and anger, leading them to make decisions that would ultimately change their lives.

“I would say students were very sobered by what happened and very frightened and angry,” he said. “So I think that fed into a lot of emotions later when people decided whether they were going to join the military or not.”

Bluth saw some students reacting with objectivity. These events were happening somewhere else — not here.

“(Reactions were) mixed because this was taking place in New York and Washington, where most Ohioans aren’t affected personally,” she said.

But Bluth is from New Jersey, and she had visited the twin towers several times. For her it was very much a home invasion.

“People were definitely affected; I think everyone felt violated,” she said. “It is their country, but I don’t think they felt the personal connection that I did.”

Robin Joynes, assistant professor of psychology, said the faculty was mystified and silent.

“Just the sense of loss that went through the faculty that were watching was profound,” she said. “Nobody knew what to say; nobody knew what to do.”

People also tried to contact their families to make sure they were safe. But she said the onslaught of calls prevented many from making any sort of connection.

“There was a period where people were kind of panicky because the lines were all tied up,” Joynes said. “They were freaking out because they couldn’t get a hold of people.”

Bluth said she became worried when she was unable to reach her family until later that day.

“I had been used to being away from home because I used to go away every summer,” Bluth said. “But for the first time in my life, I was homesick.“

Joynes said the uncertainty of the next day lingered in everyone’s mind.

“The unknown can be just as scary as the actual event — sometimes scarier in your head,” she said.

Amid the uncertainty, Robyn said he realized the attacks would forever alter the country and affect everyone’s lives.

“I remember the student asking me, ‘What do you think is going to happen now?’” he said. “And I said, ‘I’m not sure, precisely, but I think our lives have just changed. I think for the rest of our lives, we’re going to be dealing with this in one fashion or another.’”

Contact Kelly Tunney at [email protected].