20 years later, City College community reflects on 9/11 (with video)

City Times pays homage to the work of 2001 staff with a new Q&A

Mourner places a photo with flowers at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum

An unidentified mourner places a photo with flowers at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. Photo courtesy of 9/11 Memorial & Museum and Ben Hider

Twenty years have passed since the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

In the days that followed, City Times published a special edition that featured a Q&A with students and staff reacting to the terrorist acts.

City Times, Sept. 14, 2001 cover
The cover of the Sept. 14, 2021 edition of City Times featured a Q&A with student and staff. City Times archive

This week, the staff of City Times and CTTV asked students and faculty of all ages what September 11 meant to them. 

Among the students was Esparanza Torre-Giz.

The Gerontology major was walking away from a class she just finished when she was approached.

She immediately was taken aback by the question. 

She started moving around anxiously, trying to think of how to respond.

As she thought more, she started to cry.

“Let me tell you,” she said, “it gives me chills.”

She was getting ready for work and remembered looking at her television screen.

“We saw the plane go into the towers and it was a huge explosion,” Torre-Giz said. “When it stopped, we said it’s not possible. It’s not possible.”  

Recounting the events, she said how awful it was that so many people died. It made such a profound impact on her life that, from that moment on, everything changed for her.

Since 20 years have passed, the initial shock has faded.

The question has become what impact has this moment in history left on the lives of those who witnessed it, those who do not remember, and those who were not yet born at the time: What does 9/11 mean to you?

Here are their responses.

“9/11 is an abhorrent historic event that happened, a lot of people passed away and it is a time to think about that and remember.”

Emma Robbins, 17, major undecided

City Times, Sept. 14, 2001 page 2
City Times journalists cover the 9/11 terrorist attacks. City Times archive

“It was the first time that I ever felt attacked in this country. For a long time, I thought we were very fortunate that wars were never brought to our soil. At the time I just kind of got lost because I never thought anything would happen on United States soil but it did and it has.”

Joan Holloway, Staff, Food Service

“I’m 22 years old so I cannot remember the event itself. My interpretation of it is largely defined by what came afterward like the war in Afghanistan. Violence and the US influence (in Afghanistan) has never led to good things so I think it is potentially something that needs to be solved without outside influence.”

Charli Luthi, 22, Sociology major

“Just another day, it was perfect weather here in San Diego.” 

Justin Bond, Assistant Professor, air conditioning program

“Middle Easterners as a result of 9/11 have started to stand up for themselves. I think racism and stereotypes of Middle Easterners and Muslims in this part of the country have decreased because we are learning that we cannot just label people certain things like a terrorist, you know if they are not Christian.”

-Rafee Jajou, Tutor, English Center

“So 20 years later I would say it has shown America made a mistake in terms of its response. If people want to hurt America or harm us, our response did not lighten that desire in people. The 23 trillion we spent, which could have been used for goodwill, but instead we probably lost goodwill.”

Bill Stewart, Professor, Philosophy department

“Sadness and tragedy. Still very surreal because I saw it when it happened while it was live. I was watching the news before I went to work and I saw the planes hit the buildings. I did not know what was happening. I was really sad.”

-Sylvie Rangel, Food Service Worker, Food Service department

City Times, Sept. 14, 2001 page 3
City Times journalists asked, on Sept. 14, 2001, how 9/11 would be remembered. City Times archive

“Teary. All the loss of life. All the people are still feeling the pain and why? All the questions still left unanswered like why did they have to die?”

-Debbie Cheshire, Food Service Worker, Food Service department

“I started learning about 9/11 when I got to high school and the way that it affects me is that I feel that certain types of people get stereotyped.” 

-Roxanna Camargo Garcia, 23, Theatre Arts major

“It’s still a very sad event. At the time (I was) in the humanities class here so we kind of sat there and watched everything until it was time to come to class. They let class out early but mostly it was just–I couldn’t believe it.” 

Laura Steininger, 43, Staff, Instructional Laboratory Technician, Biology department

“I didn’t really get to experience it but after listening and seeing documentaries throughout my school life, I noticed it impacted a lot of people.”

Candra Ortega, 20, Graphic Design major

It was horrible, I mean I was seeing it as it was happening. When I saw my daughter sleeping I was like ‘Thank god that she’s safe.’ I had this calming feeling about my daughter. She was right there next to me and I felt like we were safe, but I was devastated when I saw what was happening to them.

-Maria Pittman, 61, Student Services assistant

“I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be there, or to have family members that were there. All over social media I hear people that lost people, so it really hurts my heart to think about.” 

-Elijah Andrews, 15, San Diego Middle City College student

“My parents were actually moving here to America from Ethiopia that week. A couple of weeks later my parents did get a phone call saying that they did lose some family members or friends, I think from that attack. It’s honestly unimaginable, but I think people should know about it. And as a younger generation, I think as teenagers, if (we’re) more open minded, (and have) more knowledge about it we can probably make a change about it.”

-Dewo Dadi, 15, San Diego Middle College student

I was two at the time, so I don’t remember the event itself. It does have very significant emotional meaning to me, but I’d say that, in my experience, it’s kind of defined more by the events that followed, the Iraq war, or Afghanistan rather. And now that it’s coming to an end, it seems like a really messy situation and has done a lot of damage to a lot of people here, and in Afghanistan.

-Charlie Luthi, 22, Sociology major

The following City Times Media multimedia journalists contributed to this report: Kathy Archibald, Ingrid Estrella, Jillian Fornter, Joel Garcia, Kathryn Gray, Assad Khalilzadeh, Will Mauriz, Joseph Martinez, Jakob McWhinney, Ric Prado, Susana Serrano, Michael Tatum and Roxanne Vieira.