Tuesday was the 11th anniversary of one of the worst days in U.S. history. Between the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Pennsylvania field plane crashes, thousands of lives were lost and we as Americans would never be the same.
Those of us that lived close to New York City at the time have a unique perspective on the events that transpired. Between friends whose family members escaped a disastrous fate and friends whose family members were not so lucky, many of us know people who were directly affected.
In Washingtonville, N.Y. (about an hour northwest of New York City), the day started out like every other day. Recess came after a slew of meaningless fifth grade fundamental classes, and the daily game of soccer was underway. But it was directly after recess that the day started to feel different.
First, the teacher said that a library was attacked in New York City, but it was “nothing major.” Then, one by one, students started getting picked up from school, until there were only about 10 or so kids left in the class. No one had any idea what was going on, but “nothing major” definitely did not make sense.
It was not until about 1 p.m. that the television revealed what had happened and suspicions were proved to be correct. Not only were these events major, these attacks would impact the town of Washingtonville and the rest of the surrounding area forever.
In Brooklyn, N.Y. (about 30 minutes from downtown Manhattan), fourth-graders were busy on math coursework when the teacher was called out. Fifteen minutes later, the teacher entered the chaotic room to announce, “A plane has hit the Twin Towers, everyone to the auditorium!”
Confusion masked everyone’s faces as they sat down to watch a small TV screen broadcasting the live attack. Children started to cry as they realized that their fathers or mothers were inside those buildings, and in 40 minutes the school was deserted. From their rooftops, New Yorkers watched the collapse of the second tower until they couldn’t stand the burning in their eyes caused by all of the dust and went inside their homes.
In Ossining, N.Y. (about 45 minutes north of New York City), fourth-graders were slowly being pulled out of class for what appeared to be an endless string of doctor appointments. No teacher said a word and the day continued just as any other would, as the class slowly dwindled. It was clear that something was wrong, but the silence kept everyone in the dark.
In Binghamton, N.Y., we all sat in our fourth grade classroom in silence as our teacher turned on the television. We all saw the images, but none of us knew what we were seeing. Other teachers came flooding in and out of the classroom, engaging in nearly silent conversations, giving us no clues as to what was happening. We didn’t know what had happened until the next day when it was finally explained to us.
In a fifth-grade science class in Liverpool, N.Y. everyone sat down waiting for class to start. The teacher wasn’t in the room, but the class could see her and many of the other teachers huddled outside the classroom quietly talking and concerned looks on their face. After waiting about 15 minutes, our teacher finally came into the room to bring everyone in the classroom next door. There was a television set up with all the other fifth grade classes finding a place to sit.
Once everyone was in the room, the teachers told us that something was going on and then turned on the newscast. We watched as the planes crashed into the towers, confused and shocked as to what we were watching.
Regardless of where you were or how old you were on Sept. 11, everyone can agree that this was a day that will go down as one of the worst in American history, and one that we should never forget.