Five years ago today, I was a junior in high school. At 8:46 am, I was sitting in Mr. Morro’s first period Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics class, discussing what made particular moments in history memorable and wondering with the rest of the class if we’d ever remember that class period since we weren’t doing anything particularly memorable.
The first I heard that anything was going on Downtown was on the way back to the locker room from the soccer field at the end of Mr. Bello’s second period Physical Education class. Mr. Connallon drove up on one of the school’s golf carts and told us that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers and instructed us to hurry into the locker rooms and wait for further information.
The locker rooms were part of what we called at the time “The New Building” which had a slightly different bell system that the administration was still learning how to work properly. They didn’t shut the bells in the new building off as they had in the older main building, so at the end of second period, those of us that were in the locker rooms exited the new building at the sound of the bell and headed back into the old building per our normal routine. We quickly realized that something was up when there was no one else in the hallways, and Mrs. O’Connell poked her head out into the hallway and shooed most of us into her and Mrs. Lucas’s classrooms. I had taken a class with Mrs. O’Connell the year before, and she quickly explained to me what she knew: that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center and that the whole building was on lock down until an emergency assembly in the old Gym where the Principal could explain everything to us.
At that assembly, we were told about what was going on (some students knew more than others, as some teachers had radios on in their classrooms that they had been listening to) and eventually they had us move into groups based on where in The City our parents worked. I can remember thinking at the time that how they grouped us wasn’t particularly good, but because my father worked in a building that was on Fifth Avenue, I ended up with Mrs. Morris. Our group went outside the front of the building and one by one used Mrs. Morris’s cellphone to call and check on our families. I was able to reach my mother at home and she let me know that my father was okay. At the time he worked in midtown, so I hadn’t been too worried.
The rest of the day we continued with a regular class schedule, but most of the teachers didn’t even try to stick to their lesson plans. In some classes we talked about what was going on and how we felt, in others we just listened to news reports on the radio. We were eventually dismissed from school and I took the usual bus back home. I sat for the rest of the day watching news reports and looking up what information I could on the Internet. My father couldn’t catch his usual bus home, but later on in the evening he was able to get a train to a station where we could pick him up.
Only one person was absent from my class that day and he happened to be the guy I sat next to during lunch. I can remember him later describing how he saw everything happen on TV, and how it was initially reported as a crash, then an attack, then a full scale terrorist scheme.
Five years ago today, I started my day going about my normal routine, just like so many other people. Now I go to school and live in a building three blocks from the World Trade Center Site. The events of five years ago today had an impact on how I live, work, and interact with other New Yorkers. I’m hard pressed to remember a time when the events of that day didn’t occur.
Today, I still start each day going about my normal routine, and I’m going to stick with it.