Although one was a junior in high school and the other only 6 years old at the time, MTSU students Amanda Hallam and Austin Dubuc remember Sept. 11, 2001, as if it was yesterday.
The horrific events of that day, which became known as 9/11, made both want to join the military.
Hallam did, serving six years of active duty and continuing her service as a sergeant in the U.S. Army reserves.
Because of a food allergy, Dubuc, who was accepted at Virginia Military Institute, was unable to join. The MTSU degree he is pursuing will take him into law enforcement.
Led by Keith M. Huber, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, MTSU conducted its first military-style observance of 9/11 on the 14th anniversary of one of the worst days on U.S. soil.
That fateful day included a series of four coordinated terrorist suicide attacks by the Islamic group al-Qaida on U.S. landmarks. Separate airplane attacks on the World Trade Center complex in New York City and one on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., were followed by a fourth when a plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
In all, nearly 3,000 people — including 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement personnel — died.
Dubuc and Hallam were two of nearly 100 people, including administrators, faculty, students and alumni, attending the observance, held at the MTSU Veterans Memorial outside the Tom H. Jackson Building.
Dubuc, 20, of Franklin, Tennessee, had an uncle who was running two minutes late for work at the World Trade Center.
The New Jersey man survived.
Dubuc was attending Heritage Elementary School in Spring Hill, Tennessee, at the time.
“I remember what I was wearing,” said Dubuc, a criminal justice major with a homeland security concentration.
“Everyone was panicking. All the teachers were crying. My mom put me in front of the TV. She said, ‘This is history in the making.’
“That day, I remember saying I was going to be in the military, but that didn’t work out,” he added.
Hallam, 30, a speech pathology and audiology major from Ocala, Florida, said 9/11 “happened at a turning point and had an impact on me to join the military.”
For Hallam, the nearly 20-minute ceremony reminded her that “it’s about all the people who did selfless acts, especially the people in the last plane.
“That one moment, we — everybody on the ground and in the bystanders in the plane — were all united for one purpose and goal: protect what we have,” added Hallam, who is a member of the Army Reserve’s 290th Military Police Brigade in Nashville.
Senior cadet Margaret Battan, a finance major from San Diego, California, read the 9/11 timeline. Alumnus Andrew Bontempi, a member of the Class of 2013, played taps on his trumpet. Cadet Commander Alison Judkins, a senior political science major from Murfreesboro, introduced Huber.
Near the end of his talk, Huber recalled how his daughter Alexis, then 7 waiting for her father to come home, asked her mother, Shelly, “How many bad guys can there be?”
Huber told the audience, which included MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, Provost Brad Bartel and other university administrators, along with Class of ’85 alumnus and veteran Jeff Davidson, the Rutherford County deputy mayor, what he would have shared with his daughter.
“There are an unlimited number of people who would steal our freedom,” he said.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)