Thursday, September 11, 2008
On September 11, 2001 I was still teaching. I was at a school on East Broadway and Grand Street. I was in my classroom when the principal came on the loudspeaker and announced that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and she would be back soon with updates. At that time I was thinking it was a small plane, but I heard talk in the hallway so I stuck my head out the door and a few teachers had gathered and they told me it was a large plane. I went back into my classroom and soon after a teacher came in and told me that another plane had hit the other tower. The principal announced something over the loudspeaker (I don't really remember what she said, some of the day is hazy). The classes and students on the side of the school that faced west was emptied because it was that side of the school that had a clear and visible view (from the third floor) of the World Trade Center. We were not evacuating the school because we were on the other side of Manhattan, directly east of the WTC location. The WTC was on the Hudson River and our school was on the East River. When the second tower fell it was like an earthquake. Parents were coming in droves to pick up their children. When the teachers had a break, they were going over to the evacuated side of the building to view the WTC. The art teacher came and gave me her keys and told me to go her room. She was hysterical because she had a class in there and they saw everything. She kept screaming and telling me that they were watching from the window because the first tower was on fire and they all saw the second plane hit. I went over to look, and I just went into a daze when I saw the burning buildings from that empty classroom up on the third floor. I went back to my classroom and there were only a few children who had not yet been picked up. We went across the hall to be with another class. We stayed until all the students left and then we had to figure out how to get home because we didn't even know if subways and buses were running. As we left the building my friend Arnie said to me: we will always remember how blue this sky was and how this happened on such a beautiful day. I think we were all in a daze and I remember too that there was alot of paper all over the streets. A parent was running with her kid and screaming "it's a war, get out of here." We got a ride from another teacher and somehow I got home. Our school was closed longer than others because we were a designated school "below Canal Street," which put us in that zone. I live in Chelsea and the smell for days came right uptown and was terrible. Dazed.... that's the word that keeps coming up. And "surreal."