I was a senior in HS. I was one of the only students at the time that knew what was going on because they were playing the radio in the Deans Office where I helped during one of my free periods. I remember we heard about the first plane and we all were wondering how that happened. Was it an accident? Was it a pilot error? And then we heard about the second plane and knew something was not right. We called the principals office frantically and I remember all the Deans running every which way out of the office. This is before cell phones were big and if one of the Deans didn’t happen to have talk radio on I am not sure how fast we would of all found out what was going on. Next period they announced to the students what happened and we were told we were on lock down. One of my friends actually had a cell phone and was passing it around to anyone that needed to call their parents. I remember students trying to sneak out of the building.
My school was directly across the water in Staten Island from where it happened and you were only able to leave if an adult came and got you. If you stood on the street in front of our main entrance you were able to see the buildings and smoke. I remember there were even rumors that a white van was in the area with more terrorists hiding bombs or something and so our school was closed for a few days.
Doubly thankful, my mom was layed off (she actually used to work in one of the towers) and since she was home she took our family station wagon came to my school and my friends and I all squeezed in the back. She dropped us off at my friends house where we were all meeting anyway after school because it was supposed to be a surprised 17th birthday party for my friend. Instead of celebrating, and being loud and having cake we all sat on the couch or on the floor staring at the TV watching the footage in shock. My mom in the meantime went home to stay by the phone just in case my Dad called (he worked in Brooklyn) and to keep in touch with some friends who’s husbands were firefighters sent to ground Zero.
I remember for weeks everyone was in auto-pilot mode just moving with no emotion. I remember it taking a while for anyone to make a joke and actually laugh. You were always in contact with who was at ground zero helping, who was still looking for loved ones, and/or attending memorials. One of my distant cousins, Brian Nunez, actually was never found and we had to go to his memorial. I didn’t know him but my mom babysat him when he was a baby/small child and it was really hard seeing her so upset. It was such a bizarre emotional time for everyone.
I know everyone has an experience across the nation but it is so different for us New Yorkers. You know it happened because you lived through it , lived very close to it, yet its still hard to accept. Every year its hard to see any old footage and I am instantly transported back to being 18 in the Deans Office in my HS.