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Dr. Lyndell O'Hara, History Dept. Chair, Recalls 9/11

Posted by Deborah.Walker on Wednesday September 7, 2011

History department chair, Dr. Lyndell O'Hara (pictured above), shares the following recollection of the 9/11 terrorist attack in Manhattan--some ten blocks away from Nyack's New York City campus.

The morning of September 11, 2001 was a beautiful, clear day. I leisurely shopped at the farmer’s market in downtown Brooklyn and arrived home to a ringing phone. My daughter told me a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I ran to look out my seventh floor window and, to my horror, watched as another plane exploded into the second building. Over the next hour, the buildings fell and the beauty of the day was overtaken by dark smoke pouring across downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. I could no longer see out the windows, the television was our only connection to the tragedy happening across the river.

All of us at the New York City Nyack campus have our memories of that day – a faculty member had just come up from the PATH train and was momentarily caught in the lobby of the World Trade Center as the doors automatically locked; another was running from the site as she turned and saw people jumping out windows of the building; others walked, and even ran, uptown to escape the terror; some were caught in subways stranded underground in the downtown area; some were frantically trying to locate friends and relatives who worked in the World Trade Center; faculty and students who were at the college’s location on the 10th floor of Worth Street,  watched, and then joined the thousands of people streaming up Broadway.

And yet, within a week, Nyack was open again. Water and electricity had been restored and we all longed to gather in our loving and supportive community. Subways were not running downtown, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and we all had to show ID at numerous military check points to enter the area. Students formed prayer groups and walked as close as they could to the area now known as “Ground Zero” to set up tables and banners as they offered to pray with workers. Others volunteered to work in local restaurants and churches to prepare meals for the tireless workers who remained on “the pile” for long hours.  

As the Nyack community reached out, others came in to minister to us. A Christian counseling center from Washington state sent therapists to live and work among us for two weeks. They offered individual and group counseling around the clock and showered us with love, care, and stuffed animals! Joni Eareckson Tada, Christian author and radio host, and her staff arrived to hold services at the college. Her personal testimony of God’s faithfulness in the midst of tragedy brought further hope and faith to the community.

Two weeks after the fall of the towers, Nyack College NYC gathered as a community of faith at the Lamb’s Club in midtown Manhattan. Students, faculty and staff shared their experiences. We prayed together, wept together, and solemnly took communion together. We basked in the presence of God’s healing love.

Classes resumed, semesters passed, new students joined the community and hundreds of students have graduated. Yet, a part of Nyack College NYC will always be defined by that day in September, 2001 and the weeks that followed.

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