Remember 9/11- English teacher remembers a day of fear

“Mustangs Ahead” will be doing a series to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. LRHS staff had the opportunity to share their stories relating to the historic event and how it has impacted them today. In this story, LRHS English teacher Susan O’Brien remembers being in New York state at the time.

Anabelle Lam – Mustangs Ahead Senior Editor

(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL) – My teacher assistant rushed into my inner city fourth-grade classroom on the west side of Syracuse, New York where 90% of the students live in poverty.  As I was working with a group of students at my guided reading table my teacher assistant’s face looked flush, and he seemed upset as he motioned for me to come over toward the door, and out of earshot of the students. Most were busy reading their books across the room when he said, “I was just in Ms. Jackson’s classroom and she had the television on, like she sometimes does, and suddenly a bulletin came on and an airplane crashed into the Twin Towers. The kids saw it and are really upset, I am not sure they understand what they just saw, but neither am I.”  

Susan O’Brien was a New York teacher on Sept. 11, 2001

Ms. Jackson had routinely brought in a television of her own, so the kids could watch the morning news each day to learn about current events and weather. I am sure she had no idea that Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 would turn out be the catalyst for why the principal asked her to remove it.  

At that time, my classroom didn’t have any television, nor a computer, or a phone for that matter. I didn’t have a smartphone to check the news either, so I had to rely on what I was hearing from others.  I wanted to get more information about what happened so I took my students on a little restroom break because Ms. Jackson’s room was right across the hall from the girl’s restroom.

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Ms. Jackson had told me when it happened, she had moved the television away from the students’ view and she had turned the volume down, but as she watched my kids in line using the restroom, I saw imagines that simply were unimaginable and quite dramatic. My favorite city, New York City, was in smoke and ash, while its people were being hurt and killed. The World Trade Center resembled two large matchsticks blazing, smoldering, and collapsing as they burned.

Within minutes it seemed, parents were coming into school and taking their children out because they were not sure if our country was going to be attacked further. The unknown was the scariest part.  Meanwhile, I worried what my twin sons who were in fifth grade were thinking as they sat in their classrooms. I wanted to go pick them up as well, but I had to stay at school in my classroom until the last of my students were picked up for the day. 

Everything changed that day for us in New York and our country. The simple things we took for granted were forever changed. Security enhanced and air travel changed, among many other things.  However, out of the tragedy, we became very proud of our country, we became much more united, and we became reflective of what is important to us. My twin sons and I went a few years later to the memorials and as we took the subway past the World Trade Center, we had our moment of silence to honor those that lost their lives.  It is a day I will not forget; ever.