Watching the events of Sept. 11 from over a thousand miles away distanced many University of Miami students from the sheer magnitude of the event.
However, some students were forced to witness then deal with the sadness personally as they went home, to New York for winter break.
“Flying over the site was the first time I thought of it as a national tragedy,” said Billy Bludgus, a student from Bayonne, N.J.
Bayonne, which sits across the river from Manhattan, looks straight out at the New York City skyline-a skyline now eerily devoid of the twin towers.
“I came to the realization that I was looking down on a graveyard,” Bludgus said.
Driving to high school every day, Bludgus would cross the New Jersey turnpike, giving him an unobstructed view of what was once the World Trade Center.
“Every day, without fail,” Bludgus said, “someone would make the comment that we were looking at the greatest site in the world. Now that’s not there anymore.”
They simply weren’t there anymore. This feeling of loss was common amongst New Yorkers and New Jersey residents.
“From a high point in my town,” said Don Dangler, a student from Morristown, N.J., “you could see a far distance. But the only thing you could see of New York were the twin towers.”
During his winter break, Dangler made the hour-long trip to Manhattan to see the crushed ruins of his former reminder of New York City.
“Lower Manhattan was a very depressing place,” Dangler said. “Knowing what happened there and looking at people’s faces…”
Dangler walked around Ground Zero, taking in all the different angles when he saw what he thought was a flower stand.
“After a second, I realized it was a memorial,” Dangler said.
Depression began to sink in as Dangler skimmed past flowers, stuffed animals and pictures of people lost in the disaster.
A moment later, Dangler said, Port Authority Police asked people to stand aside and a group of people in yellow hardhats were ushered past them.
“At first I didn’t know who they were,” Dangler recalled. “I thought maybe they were there to help in the clean up. But when they got closer to me, I saw the depressed looks on their faces.”
It was then that Dangler noticed the tags they were wearing. The tags read: “family.”
“Right then and there,” Dangler said, “it hit home as it didn’t in New Jersey or Miami. Bystanders who saw the looks on these people’s faces began crying. That’s when I said to myself, ‘I got to get out of here.'”
The feeling around Manhattan, despite the tragedy, has been a lot friendlier in the months since the devastation, some students said.
“I went into a caf