Clara Hinds… Stephen Russel… Eugene Whalen
The above three people along with thousands of others who had good hearts and were wonderful people, got caught up in the selfish actions of others. Just a few weeks ago I was going through some old papers and I found the “MISSING” poster we made for my friend Clara. She wasn’t even supposed to be at work that day, at that time. It brought me back to that day and made me incredibly sad. Then I thought about my friends, 2 firefighters that thoughtlessly ran to the buildings to save lies on their off day and lost theirs. Nothing has changed about my story for that day so I will re-post it as is. These people are loved and missed immensely. While all this was going on, I was in a classroom full of students. Some of them lost parents and other relatives, as we watched it unfold from my classroom window.
I remember the events of September 11th like it was yesterday. It holds especially firm in my mind because I watched the events unfold live across the water in my classroom full of students.
A neighboring teacher alerted me of the crash. He was a character so I thought he was kidding. I continued to teach. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a trail of smoke. When I went to the window and followed the trail, I saw a gaping hole in the Tower side… “Oh S#*t!! was my initial thought. But my thoughts were disturbed by the loud rumble of an insanely low, fast flying plane that flew over our heads. When you live in Rockaway, plane rumbles are the norm. The flight path from JFK is always live. Little did I know, that was plane #2 and it was headed for the second Tower.
Now my students are looking too, some of them crying because their parents worked in the Trade Center. As I am trying to calm them but still looking with amazement out the window, the next Tower just blew up.
I panicked and started packing my stuff. And I told the students to pack up too. I had no idea what was going on. I swear, it looked like a Sci-Fi flick when the aliens attack and stuff gets shot at. I didn’t know that the plane that just flew over our heads crashed into the other building until later on. My plan was to take the children (all 25 of them) in my truck to someplace safe. That was just the panic talking.
Once I came to my senses, I talked to the children and tried to calm them down. I tried to let some kids call their parents but I had no cell service. We were locked down in the classroom and we tried not to look but my windows had no shades. We kind of had no choice. We watched the buildings crumble and the white smoke engulf Lower Manhattan and drift across the water. The kids were screaming, especially the ones with parents that worked there. I prayed they got out. Some did, some didn’t.
I made my way downtown the very next day. The City was chaotic and security around the site didn’t exist yet. I remember standing about 5 blocks from the wreckage. I couldn’t get any closer because it was too hot. I could feel the heat and the smell the different smells of things burning. I had to see it. I didn’t believe it.
In my Social Studies class, history unfolded before our eyes. My condolences go out to the families who lost loved ones in this horrific act of selfishness. Especially Hubert Hinds whose wife, my friend, Clara perished in those buildings, and the families of my friends firefighters Stephen Russell and Eugene Whalen. I will always remember. Never forget.