September 11 Digital Archive






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911DA Story: Story

At the time, I had been in Quito attending the Universidad de San Francisco for about 2 weeks. I arrived on Aug. 26th, 2001 as part of a group of 3 students from Michigan State University (all Spanish language majors) participating in the semester long study abroad program.

9/11 -

That morning I had been in the process of getting ready for class, which didn't start until 10 am, when I knew it wasn't an ordinary day.

Around 8:30 am my host mother yelled for me to come to her room, where she happened to be watching CNN Espanol while she was getting ready. At this time, only the first plane had hit. I thought it was a terrible airline accident, nothing more.

I went about my routine and made my way to class with that image burned in my mind, not knowing that it was about to get much worse.

At 10 am in my lit. class, no literature was discussed. Hearing "Pentagon," "Washington, DC," "dos aviones," "Torres Gemelas" intermingled with several words spoken in rapid Ecuadorean Spanish (it was only my second week there) assured me that something horrendous had happened.

I didn't understand the full extent of what happened until I ate lunch around 12:30 pm. Everyone at the cafe was glued to CNN Espanol, not knowing what to expect.

Later that day, in more classes, we just discussed what was going on in the US, though there were several conflicting reports. It gave me goosebumps to discuss all of this in my US, Latin American Relations course.

One image that sticks out from that long afternoon at USFQ was the mass of students, Ecuadorean and American alike, glued to the large screen TV in the main lobby of the university. I believe Ecuador lost 30 some people in the attacks.

Most striking, however, was the scene in the hall infront of the international programs office (most foreign students at USFQ are American, in all roughly 10% of the student population). Unlike me, most of the American exchange students were from small, private colleges/universities on the East Coast. It seemed as though everyone know someone in the World Trade Center or Pentagon. Anyway, in the hallway outside the international programs office, there was a large group of American students crying, waiting to hear something about their loved ones whom might have been in either the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. That image has stayed with me.

Finally, I go back to my host parents' home in Quito. I glue myself to CNN Espanol while my host mother informs me that she heard reports that as many as 8 planes were still missing. Thank God that wasn't true!

That evening, I called home, basically to have my parents's reassurance. Luckily, most of my family lives in Michigan and I knew no one who would have been in New York or DC at the time. A sad commentary on the state of the world - during this conversation with my family, my little brother, 10 at the time, proceeded to assure me that no one would ever attack our small Michigan town, there wasn't anything there. All I could think of was that my little brother shouldn't have to even think about that possibility.

That Fall -

Anyway, being so far away from the US at the time made the entire incident seem like a nightmare. It didn't seem fully real until yesterday - 9/11/02. I'll admit, I thought about who I'd call if a plane I was traveling on was hijacked and I knew we were going down. The was foremost in my mind as I returned from Ecuador, which is quite a story in itself (I flew home on Dec. 22, 2001 - the same day as the shoe bomber incident. Luckily I knew nothing about it until I was safely home.)

Beyond -

On 9/11 I believed that I was going to have to change my plans for studying abroad the following spring in Caceres, Spain. As an act of defiance, small as it seems, I didn't. After a harrowing experience returing home from Ecuador for the holidays, I turned around and got back on a plane Jan. 4th.

9/11 put a unique perspective on a year spent studying abroad. I am only now, one year later, realizing the profound impact it had on my personal experiences.


“story6757.xml,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed February 25, 2024,