As the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 approaches, the Butler Family takes a moment to reflect on their feelings about a day that not only shocked the world, but left us all with a forever-changed perspective.
Where were you and how did you find out about the attacks?
Jackie Vietti, Butler President – Literally I was preparing to walk into the church where my brother’s funeral was being held in a small town in Iowa just across the Nebraska border near Omaha.
Julie Kobbe, English Instructor – I remember walking into the 100 building and Tom Hawkins told me about the towers. About the time I was finally processing that, he told me about the Pentagon. I thought at the time how unbelievable it all was and I continued not being able to manage the information.
How did you react?
Julie Kobbe – Being from Oklahoma, I thought back to the Murrah building bombing and how at that point, that was called the worst act of terrorism on American soil. Clearly, the events of September 11 were the newest “worst act” and I recall thinking, “Well, we have to stop making statements that label the acts of terrorism or someone will just try to be the next worst act.” I simply recall thinking that the whole ordeal just did not seem possible or real; then I realized that for the families of the victims, every day would be a reminder of loss and I just felt sorry for a whole group of people I didn’t know or would ever meet.
Jackie Vietti – I was doubly stunned by the sudden loss of my brother who had been my hero and by the devastating loss of so many innocent lives and the heart-wrenching mourning that I knew would take place for affected families and friends. I also felt very torn because I wanted to be with both my families — my own immediate family and my Butler family.
Jon Pic, Butler Marketing Copywriter – Ten years ago, I was a student at Butler and the editor-in-chief for the student newspaper, The Lantern. When I learned about the attacks, I made the decision to put myself at the forefront of news coverage for this event. Ordinarily our weekly paper would have been virtually complete by Tuesday morning, but I felt a weird responsibility to let the rest of my staff sit and stare at the television while I paced the halls of the El Dorado campus looking for potential interviewees.
What do you recall most about the hours that followed your discovery?
Jackie Vietti – Following my brother’s funeral we all gathered back at his daughter’s house and stayed glued to the television, while we also tried to figure out how to get all our family back to their homes in other states since all flights had been cancelled. Being very near to Offet Air Force Base where the President had been taken, the news was especially riveting.
Bill Rinkenbaugh – I remember seeing a jet in the sky on our way back to El Dorado and knew that the plane had to be Air Force One since all of the other planes had been grounded due to the tragedy. I also remember all of the work that had to be done at Butler to accommodate our students at Butler of McConnell because the Air Force Base was locked down for all non-military personnel “until further notice.” Rob Kuhns, Mike Calvert and Keith Langholtz did some amazing things in a short period of time to make sure that we could still serve our students taking classes at that location.
Sharon Rogers – I remember feeling shocked, helpless, sadness, and then anger. I remember the silence as people tried to take it all in. I remember the clear blue skies over Kansas without clouds or jet streams. I remember the ache in my heart and in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to be at home with my family to be sure they were safe. And I remember wondering what would happen now?
Julie Kobbe – After work, I remember how many times the news programs showed the plane hitting the towers and it began to seem cruel to keep watching it. Now I can’t even remember what the New York skyline looked like with the towers there. I feel like I should have paid more attention and I will often watch old movies filmed in New York to see if I can see the towers.
Jon Pic – The campus seemed eerily empty, even though it was still crowded with people. You could find pockets of students and instructors and administrators and staff just gathered around TVs, gawking breathlessly at the news. It intrigued me to see students from my theatre and journalism classes intermingled with my college algebra instructor and the director of the residence halls and the college vice president of finance. These were people I all recognized, but from various compartmentalized parts of life at Butler. It was kind of jarring to see them all at once, gripped by tragedy. But that was the effect of Sept. 11, wasn’t it? In those immediate moments, it brought us all together. I also remember standing behind a freshman photographer, who had refused my insistence to handle the 9/11 coverage alone and watching over her shoulder as she took pictures of a circle of “Butler Family” members gathered around the flagpole, led in prayer by Butler instructor Steve Strom. I looked at the sky and felt a little heartache as I took note of the unmarred and cloudless sky that contrasted so vividly against the smoke-filled images that I’d just seen of the NYC skyline.
What lasting impact, if any, did that day have on you?
Sharon Rogers – In 2004 I visited New York City and viewed ground zero. The noise of the city was blatantly absent from the site. The somber and reverent feeling is something I will never forget. As real as I thought my memories of that day were, my visit to ground zero made them even more real. To visualize what happened that day, what people experienced in those seconds, has changed me forever. I am more aware of my surroundings and what is happening than I was before September 11th. I worry when my children travel. I think about what the world will be like for my grandchildren. I feel more gratitude for those who serve our Country. I live more in the moment. I am more appreciative of the small things in life. I am more thankful for the big things in life. I am more aware of how quickly things can change.
Bill Rinkenbaugh – Seeing pictures of the World Trade Center in old movies still gets to me. I remember the first time I sang for Life Enrichment following the event. I sang “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning”. It’s a song by Alan Jackson that recalls the events of 9/11
Jackie Vietti – I continue to value the way the Butler family responded to this loss in terms of reaching out to our students, faculty and staff in such a quick manner. As an example, a Butler team moved all classes at our McConnell site in less than a week to our Rose Hill campus so there would be no disruption in students’ pursuit of their educations. We also offered free counseling and other services for affected people affiliated with Butler. Additionally, as I reflect on 9-11 it helps me remember how fragile and precious life is.
Jon Pic – For me, it was kind of a vocational wake-up call. I was studying journalism and had an innate talent for it. But as I drifted around the campus that day with a pen and notepad, I felt empty. Standing behind that photographer, looking at people mourning around the flagpole, I realized that I wasn’t mourning. I was recording. Logging other people’s reactions and feelings. As a journalist, I’d felt a duty to separate myself from the tragedy and to stand apart from my own ability to process what was happening. In that moment, I realized I wasn’t going to be a journalist. There’s merit in being a critical lifeline to the public in terms of communicating both the news of a tragedy and the personal accounts of those affected by it. But I discovered that I didn’t like that aspect of the job because I wasn’t capable of multitasking my own pain with what I perceived as my responsibility to catalog as much information as possible. Even so, I continued to work as a student journalist, but lost my verve for news — specifically the side of it that focuses on the hurt and loss and tragedy that occurs every day. It was too much for me.
What does it mean to you to “remember” what happened 10 years ago?
Jackie Vietti – It means stepping away from my every day busyness, which sometimes captures all my attention, to honor those who paid such a huge price for my family’s and others’ freedom. It also compels me to take whatever steps I can to foster a world based upon harmony rather than hatred.
Sharon Rogers – To remember means to give thanks for my freedom, to understand what freedom truly is, to appreciate those who fought for freedom, and those who are still fighting for our freedom. The words that keep coming to me are sacrifice and honor, how proud I am to be an American and to be a part of our strong nation.
Bill Rinkenbaugh –I think about all of the lives that were changed by the events of that day. The number of children that will never have the benefit of their fathers or mothers who were firefighters, or who had parents that worked in those buildings. I still struggle to fathom the number of lives that were lost and families that were changed at that time. To me, it is like it still just happened yesterday. It’s also hard for me to imagine that the majority of our freshmen students were only eight years old when it happened. Ten years from now, our students will not have been born when it occurred.
Julie Kobbe – My daughter was six then and for her seventh birthday party which was in October, she decided to have her party at Grandview School’s playground where her class and several other children she invited decorated the surrounding fence with patriotic symbols and colors. It was a small remembrance but it seemed right to think of others since we still had our family.