Most students watched the events on television, but some students studying in Washington, D.C., literally watched the attacks unfold. And students abroad are far away from their country while leaders emphasize national unity.
UNC has 12 students with the Washington Policy Seminar, sponsored by the Burch Field Research Seminar Program. Some were blocks from the Pentagon when a hijacked plane hit the building.
"We saw the plane go down -- saw it hit, saw the smoke," said junior Stephanie Scott, an intern at the Progressive Policy Institute. "We heard it hit, and we heard the fighter jets and helicopters come across."
Scott said she went to her Washington apartment as quickly as possible, where program directors were keeping tabs on UNC students. "When you came back, they checked your name off -- she's alive, she's OK," she said. "It was a strange experience."
Senior Tola Atewologun said he saw massive disruption after the explosion. "It was total chaos -- you would walk down the street, see a police line and an area blocked off, and you would have to figure out a way around."
When UNC officials heard about the attacks, they said they rushed to contact the students. Mary Woytowich, assistant to the chairman of the public policy department, which sponsors the Burch program, said she immediately began calling and e-mailing until all the students were located. "The kids e-mailed me, let me know they were safe and would take care of each other," she said. "I told them to call their parents."
Michael Stegman, chairman of the public policy department, said he had been in touch with all the students. "It was a visceral, emotional experience, having a profound effect -- some of them even felt the explosion," he said. "We have a great deal of security where they're living -- I feel we're doing right by them, but it was a very frightening experience."
While Woytowich and Stegman scrambled to find students in Washington, other officials checked to see if there were any students in New York City.
Marcia Harris, director of University Career Services, said she doesn't know of any students there. "There are no formal programs (in New York City) -- we may have a student with a fall internship at CBS or something like that, but there are none we know or have heard about."