I am again sharing the events of 911 as it occurred in my High School in New York, a city in Westchester that bordered New York City. I do this annually to help people NEVER FORGET. As we remember the tragedy of 9-11, I have decided to share my memories of the action that affected the lives of all Americans “FOREVER”
It started as a normal day. I was in my second year as Principal of Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, NY. We bordered New York City. School had only been is session for about a week. We were a Magnet High School and one of our magnets involved TV production.
As I walked the building, I was called to the TV station “STAT”. I stood there dumbstruck by what I saw on the cable feed. An airplane had flown into one tower of the World Trade Center. As we discussed how such an accident could happen, we found out it was no accident. A second plane flew into the other tower right before our unbelieving eyes. As the government scrambled to make sense of this, the FAA was ordering all air traffic controllers to land all other flights at the nearest airport so they could determine if there were any other planes out there attempting to crash into more buildings. We quickly found out another plane flew into the Pentagon. An additional plane was over Pennsylvania and believed headed for the White House or Capital when the passengers on board sacrificed themselves to prevent further tragedy. Those last words issued by a passenger to his wife on his cell phone will live forever,” Let’s Roll” The passengers jumped the hijackers and forced the plane to crash in a field in Pennsylvania. They sacrificed themselves to protect others and to show Americans would always go down fighting.
The worst was not yet over. The Towers collapsed sending people running. A cloud of dust appeared that never seemed to end. EMS, Police and Firemen were trapped in the collapsed buildings.
At the school controlled chaos was happening. Kids after hearing about what happened started cutting out and returning home stunned. They wanted to be with family in these uncertain times. Lines of parents showed up to sign their kids out to take them home. Nerves were further strained as frantic parents called their children to find out why they left school without permission. Nobody knew what would happen next. The District wanted reports as to what was happening in school. Teachers wanted to leave and be with family. My thoughts were to my family and a daughter who flew from Boston to New York every Tuesday for her company. I knew one of the flights that crashed had originated in Boston.
I was told the Red Cross was taking over my High School in order to set up a Reception Station for the injured from the collapse of the Towers. I was asked by the District to represent them to the Red Cross and to assist them in every way. My Head Custodian and I prepared to assist while dreading what we expected to see.
My wife finally reached my daughter after 2 1/2 hours of trying and called me to tell me she was okay. The Red Cross started setting up cots and medical stations in the Gym and appropriate classrooms. The staff was released and only a few custodians and I remained. Hours ticked by and no wounded. Finally the word arrived at 2AM there were no significant wounded, only missing or dead. The Red Cross stood down and began packing to leave. I stood there still somewhat dumbfounded not fully comprehending what had occurred. I did not know at the time but the after effects of the cloud dust would greatly add to the casualty list as time marched on.
The next few days of school being open had 60%+ in absenteeism. People did not know what to do. Many members of the Roosevelt family lost loved ones or friends that terrible day. We all dreaded the unknown. Finally we started to get some return to normalcy, if that would ever be possible. People were still afraid to go out or to gather in groups as they were afraid of another attack. People stayed away from Malls and stores. The economy was at a standstill.
President Bush continued to keep the Nation informed. Rudy Giuliani, then Mayor of New York, did the same. They became beacons of light as they shared information with the public, and reassured them. They told us to not allow the terrorists to win. Go out and shop and try to resume as normal a life as possible. By staying locked up, we were giving the terrorists what they wanted. People began to increasingly go out. The Nation needed to start the healing process but at the same time never forget.
The nerves of the Nation had been tested and life would never be the same. Jets now flew over our Nation’s major cities being on alert to shoot down any aircraft that strayed from their flight paths. As a plane flew overhead people looked up, some ran for cover, all wondered if this was another attack. The TV shows replayed the attack over and over. The relatives had gathered near the hole that once was the World Trade Center to try to get information about their loved ones they feared trapped in the collapse of the Towers. There were few bodies. Many were incinerated by the intense heat and fire. No Life would ever be quite the same.
If you remember in the days that followed we all walked around dumbstruck, numb and unsure what to do. It was our President, George Bush, and NY City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani that helped us get through by reassuring us and urging us to start to resume our lives and not let the terrorists win. Go Shopping, go to work, go to school, and we will get justice.
We must never forget what happened …………