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 the 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 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 the cellphone 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 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 hearing about what happened, cut out and went home stunned in order to be with family in these uncertain times. Lines of parent showed up to sign their kids out to take them home. 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 the building to set up a Reception Station for the injured from the collapse of the Towers. I was asked by the District to represent them with the Red Cross and to assist them in every way.
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. The Red Cross stood down and began packing to leave. I stood there still somewhat dumbfounded not fully comprehending what had occurred.
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 will ever be possible. Kids started to return to school. 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. The 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 nerves of the Nation had been tested and life would never be the same. Jets now flew over our Nation’s major cities being 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 showed 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 killed in the collapse of the Towers. There were few bodies. Many were incinerated by the intense heat and fire. No Life would never be quite the same.
We must never forget what happened …………