Ricardo Mendoza was in the air on Sept.11, 2001.
It was the Colombia native's first trip to the United States, from Bogota to California, as a student. But he never made it. His flight was one of thousands grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration following news of the plane hijackings.
Mendoza, an instructor of Spanish at Elon University, was one of about 75 students, staff and community members who gathered in front of Alamance this morning for a ceremony in memory of the attacks on this day ten years ago. The event began at 8:46 a.m., coinciding with the moment the first aircraft hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Sept. 11, 2001 was intended to be a day of celebration, President Leo Lambert said. The campus had gathered for College Coffee in anticipation of the opening of Rhodes Stadium when news of the attacks began to trickle in.
"It was a time I will never forget," Lambert said in his opening remarks. "Our world was turned upside down much like the world of every other citizen in this country and in this world."
In a prayer, Phil Smith, associate chaplain and director of religious life, paid tribute to first responders, soldiers and civilians who were affected by the day of tragedy.
"As we reflect on these past ten years, may our eyes be opened to what we have learned about ourselves and our enemies, to see how we as individuals and people can work to heal that which has fractured us," he said.
Smith and Lambert placed a wreath in front of Scott Plaza as seven somber members of ROTC lowered the three flags.
The Alamance bells then rang 115 times, marking the number of nations who lost citizens during the attacks.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Mendoza stood quietly, head bowed, before the lowered flags.
"This is affecting me, but I think it's affecting the whole world, too," he said.