On 9/11, an ordinary commute for the U.N. Semester turned out to be anything but.
By Christopher Hann
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Jayme Rabenberg C’02 was seated on a charter bus with 24 other Drew students and political science professor Richard Rhone, all bound for Manhattan as part of the university’s U.N. Semester. The bus had left campus at about 8:30 a.m. but soon hit traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. The students read or chatted quietly. Some dozed off. Over the stereo system, Sinatra crooned. Rabenberg was lost in The New York Times. Then one of the students got a phone call from her family. “When the girl got the call,” Rabenberg says, “all of us were horrified.”
Looking east, across the Hudson River to lower Manhattan, the students could see clouds of dark smoke engulf the upper floors of the World Trade Center’s north tower and, soon after, the swarm of news helicopters circling overhead. Accident, Rabenberg thought. Professor Rhone huddled with the driver. Sinatra gave way to radio news reports. Just before the Lincoln Tunnel, the bus turned around and headed back to campus. “We were quite lucky,” Rabenberg says. “We did not get stuck between the last exit and the tunnel.”
Minutes later the students learned that a second plane had crashed into the south tower. Before returning to campus, they learned it had collapsed.
Meanwhile, the Drew community was left to ponder an even more horrific scenario. Had the Wall Street Semester been held in the fall, students in that course would have been arriving at their classroom, on the 100th floor of the south tower, at just about the time the first plane hit.