7:46 AM CST 9/11/2001

                                                Aditi Adve, Narrator
A warning: this program contains graphic descriptions of the attacks of 9/11 and events following, and may not be appropriate for all listeners.

This September marks the 22nd anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. To understand how an event that happened over 800 miles from Champaign-Urbana continues to impact our community, the Uni High Oral History project collected perspectives from community members who lived in Champaign-Urbana, New York, and Washington, DC on 9/11/2001, members of the local Muslim community, veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and university experts. Through the podcast series, “800 Miles from Ground Zero: 9/11's Impact on Central Illinois,” we hope to better understand how 9/11 both divided and brought a nation together. This is “7:46 CST,” the first in our series. In this episode, listeners will revisit the day of September 11, 2001, from the moment the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and the weeks following. We will hear from a former University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign student, a university Dean who worked at the White House, an Iraq war veteran, and more as they recount their experiences. 

From Uni High, I’m Aditi Adve, a member of the Class of 2023. 

Gabriele La Nave
I saw a crowd of people pointing in the direction of the towers and looking in that direction, and sort of all looking frazzled and nervous. And so I looked at the direction of which they were pointing. And I saw a giant hole in one of the two towers with smoke coming out. And as I looked, I saw the second plane hit the second tower. I saw people jump off the towers. It was horrible scene. People were jumping because they knew that there was no way to get out, and they were burning. 

Aditi Adve, Narrator
That was Gabriele La Nave, who lived in New York City at the time of 9/11. A little less than an hour later, a plane crashed into the Pentagon. Jeff Brown, Dean of the Geis College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, worked in the White House at the time of the attacks.

Jeff Brown
So I left the house, and I'm on the interstate, and right when I'm sort of by the Pentagon on the interstate, I had National Public Radio on -  NPR. And the reports came in about how, inexplicably, a commercial aircraft had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. And obviously that was alarming. There was speculation. Is it terrorism? Was it an accident? No one really knew. 

As I walked up to the southwest gate of the White House, the Secret Service agent that was closest to me was having a conversation with the Secret Service Guard in the gate that I had just exited from. And they said, “We have an incoming aircraft, ETA 90 seconds.” And I have to admit, at that point, time slowed down, because it was like fight or flight mode. I looked around and I was thinking, “I can't get away from here. I would have to wind my way back through that security gate. 90 seconds is not enough time to do anything.” So then I'm thinking about family and I'm thinking, “Well, I guess this is how it ends.” But less than 90 seconds later, that turned out to be the flight that hit the Pentagon. 

I think I was primarily in a massive adrenaline rush for most of the day, just trying to think about, what do I do next? How do I help people? How do I get to safety? But then I think once that adrenaline rush left and I was home, I'm not ashamed to say I kind of fell apart. It was a pretty traumatic experience.

Aditi Adve, Narrator
Angela Urban, who also has an inside government perspective as an intelligence analyst in the military during 9/11, describes her experience hearing the news while she was working in Hawaii. A co-worker shouted for them to come watch the TV in the breakroom as there was no social media at the time.

Angela Urban
And he says, “Guys, you gotta stop and you gotta come, you gotta see this. A plane just hit one of the World Trade Towers.’” And so we were like, is he joking? What's going on? I was in the group that was able to go see, and when that happened actually, just those few minutes is when that second plane hit. And so, the news that was happening just in those little brief time periods, it went from even the newscasters didn't know what was going on to, you know what? This is a terrorist attack. This is not April Fools. 

Aditi Adve, Narrator
Champaign-Urbana resident Fauzia Rahman was a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on 9/11, and describes the experience of going to her college classes that day. She wears a hijab, a traditional head covering worn by many Muslim women.

Fauzia Rahman
I woke up not knowing anything.We didn't have our phones next to our bed, and it’s like, “Alert, alert! Something happened,” or you look at your phone right away in the morning. So I remember getting on the bus knowing nothing, and I was just looking around, I just felt really awkward. And I felt like people were looking at me, and I just felt very odd. And so, getting off the bus and walking into the Illini Union. Go in through the front of the Union and Courtyard Cafe — still there, but looked a bit different. Walking in and seeing these huge television screens. And just Twin Towers, and the plane's going in, and everyone's just glued to the TV. And just glancing at it, and still not processing. And I had, I think it was a history class. I don’t remember exactly which class it was. But I remember sitting down, and the professor being like, “Whatever we were going to talk about, we're not talking about that. We're gonna talk about what happened.” And people just railing and just speaking to their heart's content about however they felt. I didn't hear a single Muslim say anything, in my class at least. We were just like, “What is going on? This is like a dream.” And as news kept coming, like, “Oh, this is happening now. This is happening now.” And I didn’t think. I sort of just was feeling through the moment. “What do I, how do I feel about this? How do I feel about myself?” The thoughts came later. It's then — as we started planning as an organization, as Muslim students — “What are we going to do? What choices are we going to make? Who are we going to bring to campus? How are we going to engage with campus leadership? And what are we going to advocate for? Who are we going to advocate for? Are we going to forget ourselves amidst all of this?” And just work, work, work, and try and do what's right. Whatever that means, right?

Aditi Adve, Narrator
Waleed Jassim was a leader in the local mosque.

Waleed Jassim
I work in Tuscola, Illinois, just south of here. About 25 miles south. I work in a chemical plant. I was on top of the reactor deck at the plant, which is about approximately, maybe, 50 to 60 feet in the air. Somebody called me on the radio, saying to me that, “Did you hear about what happened?” like I did something wrong. “No, what are you talking about?” He said the issue about planes hitting the World Trade Center and things like that. I went down and I went to listen to the news from my car, and it was something really big happening. So, I went back to my office. I was basically paralyzed because I couldn’t think at that time, to have some horrible things happen. And we knew we're going to be accused for what happened.

Aditi Adve, Narrator
9/11 and the days following were fraught with emotion as people everywhere felt the fallout of the traumatic event. Here is Jeff Brown again, who was working in the White House at the time.

Jeff Brown
There's a beautiful ornate room called the Indian Treaty Room, which is in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In some number of days after 9/11, they had a service in there. It was a multi-denominational service. So there was an Imam, there was a Rabbi, there was a minister, etc. I was thinking about, why did three thousand people die and I’m standing here today watching this service? And I think I did feel some, I guess guilt’s the right word for it. I don't feel that way now. I mean,  this was a completely random act of terror. And there was no sense in which there was any logic to who lived and who died that day. But in the moment, and in the immediate aftermath, yeah, I would say that’s fair to say I felt that way.

Aditi Adve, Narrator
Perhaps because of these difficult experiences, many in the U.S. felt a greater sense of togetherness and community. Brown continues.

Jeff Brown
And it seems strange to say, but for the weeks that were following, everyone was kind to one another. Even complete strangers, even when you're in a car. It was like everybody was slowing down and letting everybody in. It was like there was just this sense of humanity that we had all discovered out of that tragedy. And there were lots of vigils and ceremonies and remembrances and things like that. So it was really a time of tragedy, but also a time of humanity and a time of patriotism. It really all came together.

Aditi Adve, Narrator
Professor Nicholas Grossman, an expert on terrorism, expands on seeing an increased sense of patriotism.

Nicholas Grossman
I was watching the NFL playoffs with some college friends in our house. And there was some commercial that came on, I guess like a Public Service Announcement, which was players saying, directly to the camera, something along the lines of, “I support the United States Armed Forces. I support the men and women of the United States military.” And a very patriotic kind of pro-military, but a direct testimonial. And I remember more kind of rally-around-the-flag patriotism than had been before. New York specifically went from being very critical of the police to very, very positive of the police. And the country, in general, was more patriotic, bordering on nationalist or jingoistic.

Aditi Adve, Narrator
Not everyone felt patriotic after 9/11. Al Kagan, a retired librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is an anti-war activist.  He describes the movement that sprung up locally after 9-11.

Al Kagan
I think the most obvious thing for many people in the community is that we used protest every Saturday morning. No matter what the weather, what season of the year it was, in the snow. We were over on Prospect Avenue near the freeway on-ramp, and off ramp. And we had maybe a couple hundred people there almost every Saturday morning. So we did that, we had speakers, we had programs, we invited, for instance, antiwar veterans to speak. We once had boots on the ground. It was a number of pairs of boots in a field that represented all the people that had died from the Iraq war. 

Aditi Adve, Narrator
The events of September 11th, 2001 filled citizens with conflicting feelings of fear, uncertainty, hatred, and community, and the events following had lasting effects on the nation, and the world, that continue to be felt today.

Thank you for listening to “7:46 CST,” the first episode of “800 Miles from Ground Zero: 9/11's Impact on Central Illinois,” a student-produced podcast by Uni High’s oral history project team. Each episode in this series focuses on an aspect of American life post-9/11, including memories from the days and weeks following the attack, military and anti-war efforts, changes to domestic policy, and rising Islamophobia. All interviews featured in this podcast were conducted in Spring 2022 by Uni’s eighth-grade class. Please tune in next week to hear about the experiences of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans, as well as community anti-war activists.


The first plane hit the World Trade Center in NYC at 7:46 CST in 2001. In this first episode of 800 Miles from Ground Zero: 9/11's Impact on Central Illinois listeners hear memories from this day and the weeks following from a variety of people currently living in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois who recount their experiences during a time that horrified, traumatized, and brought together a nation.


Gabriele La Nave lived in New York City on 9/11. He describes his first-hand experience seeing the second plane hit the towers. His story is a dramatic, immediate, and emotional.

Jeff Brown worked in the White House on 9/11. He tells us his unique experience as a government employee and a parent in D.C. during the attacks. He also describes emotions of uncertainty, guilt, unity, and everything in between felt in the White House and across the nation following the attacks.

Angela Urban was an intelligence analyst in the military during 9/11. She describes watching the plane hit the towers on TV while on shift, and realizing a terrorist attack was underway. Her story reflects the shock shared by people in the military and government and average citizens.

Fauzia Rahman was an undergrad at UIUC on 9/11 and active in a local mosque. She remembers her experience on campus, hearing about the attack, and as a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, feeling more eyes on her and more open Islamophobia.

Waleed Jassim is a leader in a local mosque in Urbana. He provides his story of hearing about the attack and remembers almost immediately “[knowing] we're going to be accused for what happened.”

Nicholas Grossman is a professor of political science, and an expert on terrorism. He describes the unprecedented sense of patriotism in the nation following 9/11.

Daniel Urban was active military in Iraq. In this episode, he explains the mindset of the nation soon after 9/11 that led to war.

Al Kagan is a retired University librarian and anti-war activist. In this episode, he shares details about anti-war protests in CU he participated in after 9/11.

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