November 20, 2019

Perspectives on 9/11: Ted Hoef

Ted Hoef was waiting anxiously in line to use the pay phone.
In the early hours of the morning, Hoef had arrived at Bellerive Country Club, eager to watch Tiger Woods practice his game for the upcoming American Express World Golf Championship.  He and the other spectators had surrendered their phones and pagers to club staff and proceeded to the course to watch golf’s top players take their swings.   Hoef recalls it being a beautiful day.
The first indication of something amiss came when security huddled around Woods.  Hoef remembers Woods’ pained reaction when the guards delivered their news.  The golfer continued to play, but wild claims were already circulating throughout the crowd.
“People were saying planes were going into the White House and all kinds of crazy rumors,” Hoef said.
After he reached the pay phone, Hoef dialed Webster University and learned two planes had struck the World Trade Center towers, and a third had struck the Pentagon. As he was leaving the course to return to Webster, his car radio alerted him that the north tower had collapsed.
“It felt like ‘Is this really real?’ It just seemed beyond belief,” Hoef said.
When he returned to Webster, Hoef and his staff began to meet with students; in particular, international students who might be perceived as Middle-eastern or who were generally fearful.  Students recounted how they had been met with anger and fear at the grocery store.  His staff acted superbly through it all, Hoef said, by contacting students and making them feel safe.
That evening a “quintessential Webster moment” took place in the Sunnen Lounge, Hoef said.  A group of students, varied in culture and background, gathered in the room and for the next hours shared their feelings with those in attendance.  Prayers were recited; songs were sung; poems were read; Hoef said it was a night about peace and hope.
“It was a real statement about who Webster is,” Hoef said. “It said that what we do here – coming together and becoming educated, and learning from one another, and learning, and appreciating our differences – is the kind of thing that will keep this thing from happening again in the future.”

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