9/11: A reflection of a tragedy

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Although the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred more than a decade ago, the memory remains fresh in the minds of the nation. The current seniors may have only been in kindergarten, but many Westminster teachers recall exactly where they were and what they were doing on that fateful day.

“I was teaching chemistry in my classroom,” said chemistry teacher Juliet Allan. “I had no idea what had happened.”

The first assaults occurred at 8:46 in the morning, a time when Westminster students had just begun class, completely oblivious to the devastation miles away in New York City.

“Rumors had started going around about what had happened,” said dean of boys, Tony Souza. “They called a full-school assembly, and the president at the time, Dr. Clarkson, addressed the school about what was going on.”

In the frantic moments following the news, classes were cancelled for a brief period of time. Students and faculty, though left with only little information, were sent to their homerooms to discuss the traumatic incident.

“The hardest thing was not knowing if that was it,” said Spanish teacher Maria Russell, “or if something else was coming after it.”

Many members of the Westminster community, as well as the student body, had relatives travelling during this time. During this pandemonium, family members may have been stuck for several days before finally being able to return home.

“I was very worried about [my husband] because I knew he was traveling that week,” said Russell. “The first thing that came to mind was, ‘What if he’s in New York?’”

As the day continued, Americans sat mesmerized by the drama unfolding on television, simply in disbelief.

“I was sitting there watching when the second tower fell,” said Allan. “We were glued to the TV like somehow that would make it any different, as if it would make you understand it.”

As the events unfolded, the lack of understanding behind why this had transpired happened only added to the speculation, leaving those at home to think on the worst outcome.”

“I thought, ‘This is war,’” said Russell. “Something major had just taken place, and I was in tears watching what was happening in New York.”

Although the assault lasted less than three hours, the scars left behind will last forever. However, the nation was quick to respond, and many police and rescue workers from all over the country journeyed to New York to assist in the recovery. Air travel was banned throughout the United States for days, leaving thousands of passengers all over the world with no way home.

“My mother-in-law was in New York at the time and she had to rent a car. Many people couldn’t make it back home,” said Russell. “It was very chaotic.”

With air travel banned,

“I can remember the next day, sitting in my classroom, looking out the window, and it was weird how quiet the sky was,” said Allan. “Usually you can look outside and see an airplane fly by now and then, but the sky was completely silent for days.”

The impact was overwhelming, yet people all over the country did anything within their power to help. From sending supplies to New York to donating blood to those in need, Americans were desperate to help those who had suffered, even from thousands of miles away.

“It’s a day I’ll never forget,” said Souza. “It was very emotional.”

While the sensitive wounds left behind were catastrophic, the economic repercussions, too, were tremendous. The stock market closed on Sept. 11 and remained closed for six days, finally re-opening on Sept. 17.

In the years to follow, the United States struggled to alleviate the pain and suffering left after the attacks. Sept. 11 becomes a day of remembrance for all Americans, especially those who lost family and friends. Each year, a memorial is held and the victim’s names are read aloud, a dedication to the tragedy of that unforgettable day.

Around March of 2006, New York City began the construction of two reflection pools where the Twin Towers once stood as a tribute to those who lost their lives and as a reminder of the strength and perseverance of the United States. The memorial opened to the public on Sept. 12, 2012, and a subsequent museum was unveiled in May of 2014.

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