9/11 We Will Never Forget

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I will never forget the eerie feeling as I drove to school in New Jersey, on September 11, 2001. I was commuting to work from our home in Pike County, PA, but I really felt like staying home that day. After signing in, I went to my room to prepare for my first reading student. Everything seemed fine until about 9a.m. when I thought I’d check the computer lab’s schedule. As I entered, the class was studying current events, and everyone was watching the local news. We were discussing the schedule when there was “Breaking News” in the program. Silence. All eyes watched in horror as they showed footage of the first World Trade Center tower collapsing like it was crushed by a giant beast.

As we listened, more special subject teachers came into the room to stare with disbelief. We heard someone on TV proclaim, “Oh no! The second tower has been hit and there is news that the Pentagon also has been hit!” Then we heard about Flight 93 coming down in Shanksville, PA! The newscaster and the crew were all scrambling around in the background behind the anchor, and our students were numb, shocked, with heads lowered resting on their desks. So many of them had come to America to be safe from the military terrors in Central America.

The United States, to them, was impervious to homeland attack. We, as a nation, had passed from infancy into adulthood in a matter of hours. Many teachers whispered, “This is the beginning of WW3.”

Our school was on lock down, and no teachers were to leave. I opened the side door of the school’s basement, while fighter jets were flying right over our school making the ground shake. Our school was on the high, rocky Palisades and overlooked Manhattan. I dared not go to the top floor to see the billowing smoke and devastation. I would have cried.

By 1p.m. the classrooms were empty. Earlier, frantic parents stormed the front door and ran down the hallways to grab their young children, to bring them home. Many teachers were put on post to keep order in the halls. We were told that we had to stay to help with the wounded, as our cafeteria was changed to a triage unit for incoming victims. A few teachers ran out of the building to get home because their husbands worked in lower Manhattan. Our Principal understood. We continued to watch the news and about 4p.m. we were allowed to leave. The New Jersey Turnpike to Rt. 80 was desolate. Highways into and out of the NYC had been blocked. There was no one at the tollbooth, and I drove right through. It was terrifying.

Weeks later, our school began “terrorist alert drills”. The Principal would say a code sentence, and the teachers would shut all lights and corral the children into the corner. Some children cried, and others, in the halls, scrambled to get to the nearest classroom to be admitted. After a few minutes he’d announce another sentence that would mean, “all clear”. Every week we got new code sentences. Our schools would never be the same.

Where were you on September 11, 2001? Was this a wake –up call to Americans?

This was the day that America witnessed the bravery of our Firefighters, Police and private citizens who died attempting to save others. We honor them. We honor those who sacrificed their lives and left loved ones behind. America showed that we could rally together, and unify to help each other in disaster. We have strong families who migrated here to find freedom and a new life. We must never forget their hard work, and their patriotism. We must protect our nation from all who threaten her. Many families escaped the horror of 9/11 by moving.  Be kind to new arrivals in your town. Remember your ancestors. Everyone has his or her own story about September 11, 2001, when America arose from slumber, and again became an eagle. We will never forget!