December 5, 2020

Perspectives on 9/11: Billy Ratz

“Jen! The world is ending!” said Billy Ratz, waking his roommate after hearing the news that two planes had flown into each of the World Trade Center towers.  His mother, an American Airlines flight attendant at the time, was in town visiting Ratz.  She was the first one awake in the apartment that morning, and first to see the news on the television.
“She could have very easily been on one of those flights if she wasn’t off that week,” Ratz said.  “She knew three of the flight attendants that were killed and took the news extremely hard.”
Ratz was a senior at Webster studying history and political science at the time.  He was also student building manager of the University Center and, although he had no classes that day, he went into work.  There was an eerie and surreal tone on campus— everyone was glued to the television, he said.  Off campus, Ratz recalls gas stations being packed because the prices jumped.  No one knew what would happen next.
“It was quiet, but a heightened sense of tension everywhere you went,” Ratz said.
The following spring, new classes related to 9/11 were added to the curriculum.  Ratz spent his entire last semester at Webster taking these classes in an attempt to better understand the aspects of that day’s events.  He took a religion class that was focused specifically on Islam, in which he learned that extremists, like those who took down the Twin Towers, are a small portion of the religion.  He also took a class on terrorism itself.  The class explained to students that attacks like 9/11 happen everywhere.  It also took an anthropological approach, and mentioned that even though some consider them “terrorists”, in their own culture they are just fighting for what they believe in.
“These classes brought me a level of understanding and peace, and helped me move on,” said Ratz.
About a year later, he went to New York and visited Ground Zero.  There was still much rubble left, and construction on the memorial site had begun.  It was an incredibly emotional moment for him.
Ten years later, Ratz is a development officer in the Alumni office. The world did not end, and he is still thankful his mother was off work Sept. 11, 2001.

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