November 24, 2020

Perspectives on 9/11: Patrick Stack

After dropping his daughter off at school on Sept. 11, 2001, Patrick Stack returned home to take care of his pets and saw Katie Couric of the “Today Show” look into the camera and announce that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.  When Stack arrived at Webster University, he heard another plane had struck the other tower.
Stack, director of counseling, was responsible for making sure Webster students felt safe that day.  What many didn’t know was that he was also dealing with his own personal trauma.  With his family 1,100 miles away in Boston, Stack had difficulty being away from them in such a time of need. His sister, Joan, was an American Airlines supervisor at the time and was in the office directing one of the flights that crashed that day.  Being so connected to the events affected their whole family, and Stack’s biggest concern was how they all, primarily his sister, were doing.
“I’m a therapist, but not to my family. But, I can’t just shut that off…  I could hear the disbelief and trauma as she was going through the names of people she knew,” Stack said.  “Very few people at the university here even knew that.”
Even though Stack had personal matters on his mind, there was still a job to be done for Webster students on campus.  The evening of Sept. 11, 2001, an open forum was held in Sunnen Lounge in which students could step up to the microphone and speak about their experience that day.  Stack recalls a moment from that evening when an international student from South America wanted to recite a prayer she learned as a little girl, but didn’t know the English translation, so she recited it in her native tongue.
“I was able to pick up that it was the prayer of St. Francis.  After her, I went to the podium and said, ‘I am able to translate that prayer into English.’  I remember I did that,” Stack said. “It was a wonderful experience.  It was deeply personal, touching and very empathetic.”
In the aftermath of the attacks, Stack talked with many students experiencing stress and anxiety.  Closer to home, his sister was struggling with the loss of many close friends and showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
What started out just like any other day changed so much for so many people.
“The day was like today.  I remember the sky was just blue,” Stack said, reflecting on that day.

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