Paul L. Caron

Saturday, September 11, 2021

9/11 Near Miss Still Haunts Law School Admissions Community

Reuters, Two Decades On, 9/11 Near Miss Still Haunts Law School Admissions Community:

Michael Goodnight was halfway into his flight from Fort Lauderdale to New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, when the pilot told passengers that air traffic to their destination was halted because a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. Soon the pilot said a second plane had hit the other tower and that they would turn back.

“Everybody was scared,” said Goodnight, who was then dean of admissions at the University of Miami School of Law. “We knew something bad was happening.”

Goodnight was among more than 300 admissions officers and thousands of aspiring students preparing to attend the Law School Admission Council’s New York City Law School Forum – the year's largest law school recruiting event. The forum was planned for Sept. 14 and 15 at the Marriott World Trade Center, a 22-story hotel that straddled the iconic twin towers' base before its destruction in the nation’s worst-ever terrorist attack.

Goodnight and about 10 other forum participants were scheduled to check into the Marriott on Sept. 11. None made it on site before the attacks that morning, saving them from the experience of thousands of direct 9/11 victims and survivors. But the near miss left current and former law school admissions officers contemplating what might have happened had the forum been just a few days earlier, or the attacks a few days later. ...

Twenty years ago – before high-speed Internet and social media – law schools mainly connected with potential applicants through forums and college visits. New York was the largest of the Law School Admission Council's seven regional forums and the centerpiece of the fall recruiting season.

About 160 schools registered to attend the 2001 New York City forum, each bringing two or three representatives to speak with applicants and hand out brochures, said Gayle Withers, director of events at the LSAC and the forum's primary coordinator. The council expected about 4,000 prospective students at the event over two days. ...

An estimated 50 people died in the Marriott World Trade Center on 9/11 – a fraction of that day’s 2,996 death toll. Most of the Marriott deaths were firefighters, though 11 registered guests remain unaccounted for. It's unclear whether they died in the hotel or elsewhere in the towers. ...

Law school admissions consultant Mike Spivey, then an assistant director in Vanderbilt University Law School’s admissions office, never made it to his Sept. 11 flight to New York to attend the forum. He was grabbing some things from his office before heading to the airport when he noticed groups of people huddled in street talking and turned on the radio. He went straight home when he heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

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