CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — “I was probably in a bit of shock from the whole experience,” Jeff Brown, dean of the U of I’s Gies College of Business, said.
It was a traumatic experience, but he says he can’t compare his day to others who dealt with worse on September 11, 2001. Today marks 20 years since 9/11, but for some, it still feels like just yesterday.
Brown, used to work in Washington D.C. He was a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Brown was at the white house when the plane hit the pentagon, but he says his story is minor compared to what others went through on that day.
Jeff Brown remembers 9/11 as if it just happened.
“I remember the smell. I remember not being able to see very far beyond the hood of my car. Having my wife on the phone, planes being scrambled, the noise, the phone dying, a lot of it. It literally feels like it was yesterday,” Brown said.
Brown was working in the White House 20 years ago. He was heading to work when he heard the first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
“By the time I got there the second plane had already hit the World Trade Center, so we knew it was a terrorist event,” Brown said.
He then heard this.
“The secret service, one of them came out of the guard shack and yelled to his colleague, we have an incoming plane ETA 90 seconds,” Brown said. “For a few seconds thought well, this is how it ends. There’s no where I can go and then literally seconds later it ended up being the plane that hit the Pentagon.”
Once he heard the crash and saw the smoke from the Pentagon. He immediately started to evacuate people as fast as possible. Once he helped get people out, he decided to go home to his wife and kids.
“I had to drive right by the Pentagon to get home and so there was a moment when you’re in the midst of the smoke and the jet fuel smells and all of that and there’s jets being scrambled and causing sonic booms. I mean just the whole scene was chaotic,” Brown said.
He says he was able to get home safely, unlike so many others.
“There’s almost a sense of guilt. That like all these other perfectly innocent people survived, why was I a lucky one? I can’t imagine, again, what it was like for those who were actually in the Pentagon or in the World Trade Center when this happened,” Brown said.
He hopes his story helps people remember the true heroes of 9/11.
“Those who died, their families, the first responders, the heroes on Flight 93, who saved countless lives and I just feel the need to remind people of that and that we really don’t forget, right. We should never forget what they did and what they sacrificed,” Brown said.
Brown says he has seen the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania. He says he donates constantly, because the people on that plane may have saved his life.