Your Thoughts on 9/11

USF held a memorial service Friday, and the weekend is filled with 9/11 events in Tampa Bay. Click the link below to post your comments, thoughts.


From USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 9, 2011) – Across the nation this weekend, people are reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania.


It’s an indelible memory to most. They know exactly where they were, and what they were doing when word first reached them that planes had struck the World Trade Center towers in downtown Manhattan.


In the days and weeks that followed, thousands of people and organizations provided support, comfort and expertise to help a nation through the evil of that dark day.


The University of South Florida, its researchers and staff, reached out on several fronts.


A USF professor and graduate students traveled to NYC to deploy small robots to search debris for victims and establish search patterns for rescuers.


USF’s Educational Outreach  began training thousands on how to help others cope with the traumatic event. The USF Center for Biological Defense ramped up its research and educational outreach to detect and respond to potential bioterrorism-related epidemics. USF students held vigils, donated at local blood banks, reached out to students in New York to offer support.


USF News would like to publish your story. Click on USF News Email to send in your remembrances or thoughts on the 10 year anniversary.


The emails will be published below on this page. Please include your name and home town.


-          USF News editor



I left the Sarasota-Bradenton airport that morning around 7:00 AM. I was shocked to see the giant tail of Air Force One as I walked up to the terminal and I took a bunch of photos of it from inside Terminal A. I remember thinking that this plane represented the commander in chief of the symbol of freedom in the world, and how proud I was to be an American.


I was on my way to Indianapolis and was routed through Covington, Kentucky to catch my last leg of the flight. We boarded a 737 to Indianapolis before the first tower was hit and we waited behind 15-20 other planes for takeoff. During that long wait, the first and second planes found their targets. By that time, we had assumed our place for takeoff on the active runway. Our pilot input full throttle and we began to move down the runway. After just a few yards, the captain applied the brakes to a hard stop, turned on the PA, an announced, “Folks, I’ve got some disturbing news for you. We’ve received a message from the FAA telling us that both the WTC towers in New York have been attacked by commercial airliners. The FAA has ordered all air traffic in the U.S. on the ground and any aircraft in the air in 30 minutes will be shot down.”


We waited on the active runway for over 3 hours while the rest of the planes found their way to the various terminals to expel their passengers. When it was our turn, the Airport was nearly a ghost town and a shuttle to the rental car agencies deposited about 50 of us to an Avis terminal with no remaining cars and about 300 other people standing in a long, wide line. I called a cab to take me to the nearest hotel and made reservations for a car the next day. Every radio and television was tuned to unfolding news of the events, and every person I encountered was stunned, hurt, angry and confused. Every conversation was held in somber tones and those conversations were happening anywhere there were 2 or more people gathered – the hotel lobby, the restaurant, the elevator, the parking lot.


The next day I made the 1,000 mile trip home to Sarasota, into the path of an oncoming hurricane. Many of my traveling coworkers also made long drives home. My brother, a commercial pilot, was grounded indefinitely. As we all learned of the details – the staggering, but lower-than-expected, numbers of deaths and casualties, the heroic efforts of passengers on planes, the identities of those responsible and their connections to Venice and other towns – we all found a sense of unity that we had never felt. On a trip to New York in October, only weeks after the attacks, I was really moved by the difference in the demeanor of average New Yorkers. The tough exterior was visibly softened and remains somewhat this way even today.


Ten years on, we are still reeling from the loss of a sense of invulnerability and much of the unity has been replaced with factionalism and stressed by the horrors of two wars. Economic crisis and political infighting have relegated out thoughts to financial insecurity and we grumble going through security at the airports. We don’t feel much safer. We don’t have the confidence that the undercurrents of discontent that foster extremism are anything but more turbulent. We want to live in peace, but economic and political inequities are arguably at least as ubiquitous as they were in September 2001. There is a sense of cynicism that displaces a sense that we can make things right again. We need to find ways, as individuals, to take control of those things that we see as “unjust”. We all need to take charge of our little spheres of influence and eschew cynical attitudes for the good of our friends, family and children. We can no longer point to our leaders and institutions and expect them to make everything OK. We have to dig down and really “be” the democracy that marked our beginning as a nation. We have to step up and be worthy of the sacrifices made by so many 10 years ago, and for hundreds of years before. In remembering these horrible events of 9/11/2001, we have an opportunity to honor those we lost and to begin to build a future that will honor those yet to come.


--- J. Colin Leonard





This day has many powerful symbolisms and life shifting energy on many levels.  Besides all of the obvious and tragic ones which are painful. Below are links to some other connections which have a  little more creative outcomes and also connect back to  USF.  


In March 2001- I won the Public Art commission for Hillsborough County to use the Guns and Weapons from the Cease Fire of Tampa gun buy back program to make 2 Public Art Sculptures:


The date that I received the final purchase order for these Art pieces which transform Weapons of violence into art; 9-11-01 see attachment


I had a studio in Tribeca (lower Manhattan) from 1978 to 1997. From my window I could see the twin towers unobstructed. I would go to the Top to the Windows on the World restaurant quite often to celebrate my exhibitions and sales. They were a part of my NYC experience, and I was devastated when the impossible happened, they crumbled!.


I refined and developed the artwork I was making for Hillsborough County from the melted weapons into an extraordinary site memorial and sculpture in tribute to that tragedy. I worked with the renowned architect Peter Gottschalk  and was one of only a few people in the world to successfully submit my work to  the International Competition for a memorial monument for the site of the  World Trade Centers.


To see my design see:


I also am a Yoga instructor for USF Group Fitness at Campus Rec.


Thank you,

Bradley Arthur



It was a Tuesday morning. The date: September 11, 2001. I was literally on the air, flying back from NYC. Our flight, the night before, had been canceled because of bad weather. Unbeknown st to me, and my family, our people, and our country, were under attack, in airplanes, and by plunging airplanes, into the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon. Immediately, right after we landed in TIA, people dressed in bright orange suits, began to search our plane. We thought of it as weird, but everyone complied, and exited the plane, as soon as we were dismissed.

A half hour later, on our drive home, we heard the terrible news, on the radio. The first World Trade Center tower had been hit, by an by an airplane. I could hear so much fear, and shock in the DJ's voice. We all turned to look at each other, and said: "We were just there! We were just there a few hours ago!"

When we arrived home, we barely made it to the television, to witness the second airplane hit the other World Trade Center tower. I still feel like crying, reliving the moment. What was happening? The towers were on fire, and crumbling in front of me. My brain was not able to process the pictures the television was showing. It was unreal. People were screaming and running away, as fast as they could. People were drenched in powder, and ashes. It was the powder and ashes the explosion had deposited on people's bodies. Dead and alive. It was the type of news seen everywhere around the world, except the United States.

Around 11 a.m., I began calling people, my friends. Double checking that what had happened, really did happen. I got on my car, and started driving to class. I was taking Comparative Politics, with Dr. Milani. I arrived, just to find out the campus had been closed.

It was awful. I didn't know what to do to help others, and at the same time, make me feel better. I wanted to wake up, and pretend this was not happening. I almost feel bad, when I say this... But, this kind of thing airing in the news, usually happened outside of America. All I could do, was to keep watching the news, hoping for some reporter to show up, and say it had this had never happened. The hope was in vain.

The next morning, USF opened its campus again. I went to Mr. Milani's class, Comparative Politics. When he came in, the class was silent, and you could hear a pin drop. He approached his podium, and raised his head. He said: I'm sorry this happened. He apologized. He felt responsible. We discussed it. He was awesome that day.

People died that day. People died in the hands of others, who thought of us as sinners. People who learned how to fly airplanes near our homes, and taught by our good, trusting neighbors, just to later find out they had been scammed.

It’s been ten years now. And we are still feeling the pain. I still fly the American flag at home, and have a sticker on my car. As a middle school teacher, I always remind our students to be proud of being Americans. Because we are strong, fight for each other, and care for those who need help. We are outgrowing old problems, and as a nation, and we are facing new ones. But one thing remains the same: there’s a brotherhood among Americans. Americans still believe in the generosity of others. Americans still stand for what they believe. And what happened on 9/11, only made us stronger, and closer to one another. God bless America. 9/11 is a day I will never forget, and neither should you.

-          Arabella Guerra, Tampa




It was a routine Tuesday morning for me until I received a frantic phone call from my wife.  I lost track of time, but I recall speeding west on Busch Boulevard towards my office at the Florida Department of Health laboratory.  I picked up a colleague on the way who had not heard the news, but we felt we had a place to be.


The USF Center for Biological Defense (CBD) was still fairly young.  Prior to the terrorist attacks, folks often raised an eyebrow or garnered a quizzical look on their face when I told them about my job.  I was the second person hired by the Center in 2000, and in the months prior we spent much of our time building and developing a program that we hoped would never be utilized to its potential.


I merged my education and experience in microbiology and infectious diseases with the field of counterterrorism.  It was fairly novel at the time, and it took quite a bit of convincing to develop a working relationship with the emergency responders in the Tampa Bay region.  We had held many trainings in the early months of 2001, specifically on bioterrorism.  They were modestly attended as priorities had to be set and biodefense training was not at the top of the list.


When we arrived at our offices – it must have been 9:30 am – we just watched the events unfold.  We made phone calls to our emergency management colleagues and offered our assistance.  Time just floated and reality was not fully grasped until I received the e-mail from State of Florida Warning Point.


America was under a terrorist attack.


Obviously there was nothing we do could except watch the horrible events unfolding on the television.  There were tears and the anxiety was incredibly intense. Many of my colleagues chose to go home for the day to be with their loved ones.


The Center for Biological Defense remained fairly low key and under the radar for the next few weeks.


We were co-located with the Florida Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories in the USF Research Park.  The CBD had offices in a wing of the building and next door to my office was the regional epidemiologist for the Department of Health.  His job, stated fairly simply, was to follow up on reportable cases of infectious diseases.  Some of these diseases may constitute an outbreak if there is an increased incidence of this particular disease.  Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that can cause inhalational anthrax, was often discussed in the courses we taught.  It can occur naturally, but that is extremely rare and just one case of inhalational anthrax may be considered an outbreak.


On October 2, I was informed of a case of inhalational anthrax in South Florida.  There was no reason for this particular individual to have anthrax, but it eventually started to add up.  This was our “Oh sh*t!” moment.


Two days later a press release was distributed by the Florida Department of Health announcing “Health Officials Investigating Isolated and Non-Contagious Case of Anthrax.”  Though the public was not aware, we learned that this was not isolated as new cases of inhalational anthrax were identified.


There was a reason that the USF Center for Biological Defense was created to provide countermeasures to bioterrorism and other emerging infectious diseases.  Never, ever did I think our biodefense training and research would be so critical to national security.  The Florida Department of Health and the USF Center for Biological Defense were now on the frontlines on the fight against bioterrorism.


Cases continued to be identified and citizens were terrified.  Someone (or group) was sending these pathogens out via the mail.  The media requests were rampant and we did our best to allay the fear.  I  knew what would happen if terrorists could weaponize and distribute a more deadly pathogen, yet I felt at the time it was important to keep this close to my chest.  I could only imagine what would be next.


As fear escalated, samples continued to arrive at our laboratory facilities.  Our laboratory was one of five at the time in Florida accredited to test and confirm these agents of bioterrorism concern.  Luggage, airplane parts, soda cans, money, food arrived in the following weeks – if it had a white powder it came to our labs.  There were no standard protocols for sample collection and transport, and samples arrived in every way, shape and form.  The employees of the Florida Department of Health and USF CBD worked tirelessly to test all of these items.  They are all to be commended.


It was mid-October and the anthrax mailings reached their apex. I travelled to Fort Detrick, Maryland to receive specialized training at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).  I scheduled this weeklong training in the spring, not aware of how timely it would be after 9/11.


We were immersed in exercises to handle the casualties of biological and chemical terrorism.  The mood was tense. We were training while our labs were slammed testing samples, and I considered leaving to assist back in Tampa.


The security at the USAMRIID training complex was enhanced and several of the lectures were cancelled for reasons unknown to us.  A Blackhawk landed outside with unscheduled visitors.  Senators Frist and Kennedy held a brief meet and greet with us – they commended us for our work, and looking back this visit was quite significant.   Thirty minutes later they were gone.


Many years passed and suspects came and went.  The particular strain of anthrax that was used was specific to just a few laboratories.  In 2007, a suspect was identified. He was a scientist at USAMRIID, and for all I knew, he could have been my instructor.


I do my best to recall what life was like on September 10, 2001 yet the memories of the pre-9/11 innocence and naiveté continue to fade. All of the events that happened in the Fall of 2001 were horrific, yet I feel that it made us a stronger country.  The search for the anthrax mailer dramatically increased our capabilities in the field of molecular forensics.  Thousands of emergency responders were trained in disaster preparedness and response, and the work at the CBD has facilitated the expansion of research into other critical areas, such as neglected tropical diseases.


Though it was for all of the wrong reasons I am fortunate to have witnessed history and the evolution of our nation.


-          Matthew Rollie, Tampa