“Hey, fire!” a group of students yells cheerfully when they see the television footage in the Cultural Center (Harmoniecomplex) Hall. Many students and employees run into the television that is set up by the doormen every Tuesday when they’re on their way to the cafeteria. It’s set to CNN. When the subtitle “Terror Attacks In The US” appears on the screen and they realize the size of the tragedy, their joy is replaced by other feelings. “Now the Americans know what it feels like for once…” someone mumbles without really finishing the sentence. “But all those innocent people,” someone else protests. A teacher makes a gesture to his students – you can tell he can hardly believe it himself – that the lecture is going to continue. Someone else has one more look at the screen and yells “Ha, rocket shield, yeah right” and goes up the stairs. All mobile phone conversations around the university buildings only seem to be about one thing. “No man, no joke, the whole World Trade Center is gone,” one guy yells into his phone. An American student is on the phone crying in the hall of the Cultural Center (Harmoniecomplex). A meter and a half behind the television screen, two students continue making copies like nothing happened.
Although every citizen of Groningen head the news about the attacks filled with disbelief, the news struck 21-year-old Kenny Hamner extra hard. The young American, who studies in Groningen temporarily, was a powerless spectator as his countrymen were struck by terrorist attacks. In addition he was worried about his friends and family. “My mother works as a stewardess and I have friends who live in New York. Only after a couple of hours I could get in touch with them and I knew they were okay. Next to that I heard my uncle was in a plan during the attacks, but nothing happened to him luckily.”
The American exchange student exchanged his house in Georgia a couple of weeks ago for an international student house in Kraneweg. The moment of the events Kenny was at the university. “I was on the internet when I suddenly got a message from an American friend. He told me to put on the television because something terrible had happened. I quickly looked for another American student, and when we finally found a television, we saw the images. I was deeply shocked. Something like this isn’t possible, I thought.”
The student visited a friend in NYC only two months ago. They also visited the World Trade Center. “I knew how big those buildings were. When you see the images they look smaller, but they’re really incredibly tall. It’s unthinkable that these buildings have disappeared.”