Oklahoma State University alumna Rebecca Thapa had finished her morning assignments early that day.
She had just started working at an internet news company in Washington, D.C. and was having a typical September morning.
Sept. 11, 2001.
“The first thing they were reporting was that it was a random plane had just hit the World Trade Center, because no one knew,” Thapa said. “Then the second plane hit, then not long after that the Pentagon was hit.
Thapa’s office was in a central location in the D.C. metro. It was just miles away from the Pentagon, which is where 189 people died that day, but much closer to the White House and the Capitol building.
“There was rumors going around, and the news was reporting, that the White House was being targeted and the Capitol was being targeted,” Thapa said. “The streets were just clogged with people at around 9:30 a.m. But instead of going into D.C., they were all leaving D.C. It was bizarre, it was the weirdest thing. People were just flooding the streets, walking, driving, anything they could to get out of D.C.”
Thapa said that the city continued in this state for the next couple of hours, but as time went on, the streets ended up being completely empty.
“There was no one,” Thapa said. “D.C. is a city where it would take you two hours to drive 20 miles. It was constantly busy, but that day, by the end of the afternoon, nothing. You heard no noise, there was no traffic, all you could hear was the fighter jets in the city. It was the scariest feeling and it was like that for quite a long time after I remember… (The military presence in the city) was scary but not, because you felt like you were protected. I mean we were more protected there
Thapa went home that night, opting to take the metro instead of her usual option of taking the bus, and was filled with anxious and fearful emotions. Her and her husband, fellow OSU alumnus Binaya Thapa, spent the next few hours chatting with close loved ones.
“I just remember being scared a lot,” Thapa said. “We made a lot of phone calls that night but phone lines were down for a really long time. We didn’t have cell phones then, we were still poor college students. The only way we really connected with friends was Hotmail messenger and we had dial up.”
Thapa noted that life after this day felt a lot more heavy than usual. Security in D.C. was reached its peak and everyday life as most people knew it was different. With this happening, and Thapa’s distaste for a fast-paced city lifestyle, the couple moved back to Oklahoma shortly after.
“(Washington, D.C.) just didn’t fit the same way Oklahoma did for me,” Thapa said. “I couldn’t see us living there long term. I think living in Oklahoma has made our life better. It worked out the way it was supposed to work out… We look back on OSU so fondly. Before COVID, we were season ticket holders for football games. We just loved OSU so we continued to come back.”
Editorial note: The O'Colly's series called "I was there" compiles stories of various OSU alumni, faculty students and staff who were present at historical events. If you fit this category, please reach out to email@example.com