St. John’s Remembers Sept. 11


Victims on Sept. 11, 2001 assist each other while roaming the streets of Manhattan.

It was a beautiful September day, not a cloud in the sky, the remnants of summer still lingering in the air.

Anita Webb exited the subway station on Murray Street in Manhattan like any other day. She was headed to the St. John’s Manhattan campus where she worked. But as soon as Webb came up from under ground, it became apparent something was wrong.
A plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers.

She did not understand. The clear blue sky– how could a plane not see a building? What a terrible accident. And while she stood on Murray Street and West Broadway, the second plane hit.  A fireball erupted from the sky and Webb began to run. This was no accident.

“It was just unbelievable,” she said.  “I was very afraid.”

Webb was changed forever, she said. The world as she knew it, as New York City knew it, was over. Life would never be the same.

By the time the second plane had hit, the radio and televisions began announcing what was happening. Webb said she watched the second building collapse from the street, debris and smoke billowing towards her.

Over a decade later, it is impossible to forget the horrors of that day.

“The image that is most engrained in my mind was standing on that corner when the second plane hit that second building,” Webb said. “I can close my eyes and still see it.”

Webb eventually made her way to the Manhattan campus. Students and faculty gathered in the lobby, unsure of where to go or what to do next. There was no service, limited transportation and still a lot of confusion. It was decided the Manhattan campus students would begin making the walk to the Queens campus—where they would stay for the remainder of the semester as the Manhattan campus was transformed into a Red Cross center.

Webb, who lived in the Bronx, was able to catch one of the few buses running. She said she remembers passing all of the major NYC landmarks on that bus ride and wondering what would happen next. She admits the fear was intense.

The campus lost one student that day who had graduated in May, along with two adjunct professors.

“It was horrific,” Webb said.

But Webb reiterated what many St. John’s faculty on campus said too about that day– St. John’s came together. Webb explained that the weeks and months after the attacks were just as hard as that initial day. The memories, the lives lost and the images were always prevalent. But the Queens campus welcomed Manhattan with open arms. They gave them a place to live, learn and remember.

Twelve years later Webb still remembers the day of the attacks like it was yesterday. Everything–from the smell to the burning to the chaos–will always be with her. But she said she is no longer afraid. She learned you cannot let fear stop you, but you must also never forget.

“We survived,” she said. “We will find a way. We always do.”