The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is always a time of remembrance and reflection. For so many of us, the events of the day are permanent fixtures in our memories — where we were, the many hours spent in shock in front of our televisions, seeing and hearing the tales of heroic first responders and survivors, and eventually finding a way to move forward in a world changed forever.

On that day 20 years ago, Beth and I were living and working in Madrid, raising two young children. Beth will never forget the tears after her colleagues at Carlos III University rushed into her office to share the tragic news. I was a young dean at IE Business School and remember vividly the gut-wrenching pain, watching the images surrounded by faculty and staff colleagues. When Beth and I finally reached each other, we cried in disbelief. We called family in the U.S. and cried some more. And then we started receiving calls from friends and family in Spain and realized that everyone, even an ocean away from the U.S., shared our pain. This was not an attack on the U.S. but on humanity. And that sense of togetherness was what helped us through it. When horror strikes, there are no nationalities, no differences. We are all one and the same. That sense of community that helped us that day left an indelible mark on us, a deep realization that we are in this together.

At Georgia Tech, we honor the memories of the nearly 3,000 killed in the attacks that day, the more than 6,000 injured, and the scores of others who have died of 9/11-related illnesses in the years since. I hope you will read more about the stories of several members of our Tech community and their experiences in 2001. Our Institute Communications team recently sat down with several alumni, faculty members, and a student to hear their stories.

In 2001, Michael Arad, a young Tech alumnus and architect, had just moved to Manhattan. In 2004, his design for the 9/11 Memorial in New York City was chosen out of more than 5,000 entries. General Philip Breedlove (USAF, Ret.), alumnus and current distinguished professor of the practice in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, was working in the Pentagon as a senior military assistant when he felt the building shake. Kelly Griendling, alumna and current faculty member in Tech’s Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, was a first-year student at Tech in 2001. And current fourth-year civil engineering student Kevin Lewis shared stories of his late father, who was a first responder at the World Trade Center that fateful day and during the months of recovery that followed.

You can read their stories in detail here:

As we join with our colleagues, families, and friends to remember 9/11 this and every year, I am grateful for these stories and others that keep the sacrifices close in our hearts and minds. Stories like these are the ones that I told my own children, who were at the time too small to comprehend the incomprehensible — stories of individuals, communities, a country, and a world in grief and turning to hope. These are the stories that we must honor, remember, and tell over and over for generations to come.

— Ángel