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‘It altered the course of my life’

New York City's 9/11 Memorial at World Trade Center Ground Zero seen on September 12, 2013. The memorial was dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. / iStock

When the day began, it was the dawning of their college experience, the culmination of so much dreaming, anticipation and hard work. Within a few hours, however, the students were left in shock, their optimism shattered.

Members of the Class of 2005 remember their first day at Furman, a day traditionally humming with hope and possibility, as one instead pierced by unfathomable horror. For them and for many across the nation, the attacks of 9/11 also led them to re-examine their place and purpose in the world – a deep reset that some have experienced for a second time during the ongoing pandemic.

These alumni recall what they were doing, feeling, and in some cases, what they were learning in real time as first-year students on 9/11 – the day they embarked on their four years at Furman, the day our nation was changed forever.

Read President Elizabeth Davis’s message reflecting on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Clayton Dyson ’05


Clayton Dyson ’05
“It was the most surreal moment of my life. I was sitting in my first college class with professor Dorothy Norwood as people started gathering around the TVs in the political science building. After the first plane, we just assumed it was a mistake or an outlier, but after the second plane, it was clear this was something much bigger. I remember thinking I would be drafted into the military, having just completed Selective Service documentation months earlier. I also remember the biggest sense of American unity permeating throughout campus for several weeks. It was as if we suddenly all realized how much we were all alike and equally vulnerable to the events at hand.”

Clayton Dyson is the executive director of field operations for the Atlantic region at Chick-fil-A, Inc.

Joe Waters ’05

Joe Waters ’05
“I remember very clearly that I was on the steps of the library when some classmates from my sister hall shared the news that the planes had struck the World Trade Center. Like most people, I found a TV and watched CNN until my next class, which was Humanities 11. I’ll never forget when Dr. Chris Blackwell (classics) made some remarks about how important it was that we began our humanistic studies on what was clearly a very dark day for humanity. Despite the shock of what was happening, he encouraged us to not lose sight of the importance of what we were doing in college and, in particular, in closely reading ancient texts in Humanities 11. The study of these texts would nurture in us the type of humanity that would be the most effective in combating the cruel destruction that flickered across our TV screens that Tuesday morning.”

Joe Waters is the CEO and cofounder of the think tank Capita. He and wife Molly ’07 live in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. 


Tiffany Batiste ’05

Tiffany Batiste ’05

“As I stood in the bookstore, I turned my attention from looking for textbooks to watching the TV just as the second tower began to fall. Glancing around, everyone’s gaze fixated on the TV echoed my confusion, horror and fear. I didn’t understand the ramifications of that morning then, but it altered the course of my life. Feeling called to help in any way, I joined ROTC and have spent the last 16 years serving as an Army officer advancing America’s interests and promoting security around the world.”

Tiffany Batiste ’05 is an officer in the U.S. Army and lives in Washington, D.C.




Jim Eubanks ’05

Jim Eubanks ’05

“I had just come back from my first college class of freshman year to Poteat Hall when my roommate, staring intensely at the small television in our room, uttered that one of the World Trade Center buildings had been hit by a plane and was on fire. It was not five minutes later while we were watching the news together that the second plane flew into the other building on live TV. Everyone was shocked and uncertain about the circumstances, but clearly it was intentional. Our co-residents congregated shortly thereafter as we waited for more information to unfold.”

Jim Eubanks is a physician in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.


Hannah Adair Bonner ’05

Hannah Adair Bonner ’05

“I was sitting in an empty classroom because no one else came to class, and I heard two professors walk by the door talking about a plane hitting a building. I thought they were talking about a movie they had seen that weekend. But as no one else arrived for class, my brain began to process that it was real and not a movie and I returned to my dorm where we huddled around a television taking in the news. I was a 13-hour drive from home, surrounded by people I’d only recently met, who quickly bonded in the midst of our bewilderment. My sister went into labor in Arlington, Virginia, near the Pentagon, and I was praying the stress wouldn’t affect her or the baby. It was hard to be so far away from family in Philadelphia and Arlington for the first time in my life, as we all went through this in different ways. It was surreal. Things would never really return to the way they had been in terms of how my generation thought about our safety and relationships. Currently, I work as a chaplain with college students, and in the early weeks when COVID-19 began to alter their lives, I quickly recognized that my freshmen were going to go through the same kind of seismic shift of paradigms that we did. That baby that my sister had given birth to as a plane crashed into the Pentagon nearby, began college as well. My heart hurt for all of them in the way that only a class that has endured a historic shift in such a moment of vulnerability and newness could. They could not understand that things would not go back to how they were, but I knew. We knew. Because the Class of 2005 had been in their shoes.”

Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner is the director of Frontera Wesley at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.

Allison Foy ’05

Allison Foy ’05

“September 11, 2001  . . .  my first day of college classes. I returned to my dorm after an 8 a.m. Spanish course and found most of the girls on my hall watching TV. The images of the towers and billowing smoke will forever be embedded in my memory. At 18 years old, I knew I was truly experiencing history for the first time in my life. What began as a day marked by naïve and innocent excitement as our Furman academic careers began turned into a day of uncertainty and fear. Times of crisis have a way of drawing people together, and our classmates and members of the Furman community supported each other on that day and those that followed.”

Allison Foy is the executive director of Furman Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement in Greenville, South Carolina.

Greg Dover ’05

Greg Dover ’05

“I remember going to my 8 a.m. Spanish class, and as I went back to my dorm, a friend stopped me and told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I went back to my room and turned on the TV, and watched the second plane fly into the tower. When it hit, people came out of their rooms and were yelling down the hall trying to figure out what was going on. By mid-morning, classes were canceled and most of us watched the news for the rest of the day. I remember watching much of it on TV carts in the Dining Hall. I don’t think we ever could have imagined how that day would change the world as we knew it.”

Greg Dover is the pastor at Augusta Heights Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina.



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