Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Tell Your 9/11 Story

posted by Nell Minow

The New York Times and YouTube have created a site for people to share their memories of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and how it has affected our families and the world.

The PBS NewsHour is also collecting stories and will be tweeting the names of those who died all weekend.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Deborah Hallen

    9/11/01 was primary day in NYC, and I voted before I walked on to work as a 6th grade teacher at PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights while also thinking about the possibility that I might have breast cancer, and will need another biopsy.  My third floor class room over looked the New York  skyline, and shorty before 9 am we saw that a world trade tower was on fire. As Chapter Leader of the UFT, I had been trained to leave my radio tuned to WNYC in case of an emergency. I turned the radio on and heard, “A commercial airliner has just crashed into the World Trade Center.” I shut off the radio, phoned my husband who was working in his art studio two blocks away and told him what I heard, then I phoned the school secretary to tell her and asked her to tell the principal. Then I told the students what I had heard on the radio. They asked me what a commercial airliner was, and I answered them; I also said that we had just seen a lot of people die, and we must be quiet for a moment to let their souls go to wherever souls go when people die. I also told them that we would never forget this day. The tower was blazing and smoking. I also thought that if my friend’s husband went to work at Windows on the World, he wouldn’t survive. (He didn’t survive.) Some children cried, some crossed themselves and prayed, others put their heads down. The principal came upstairs and asked us to go to the basement. We saw a second plane fly into the other tower. I saw black objects flying out of the tower, but they looked liked ants, and I processed them as ants. Two years later, I learned what they were. Denial sometimes enables me to cope. ?All the classes K-6 sat in rows in the basement. I had my small portable radio on, and held it up to my ear, and updated the principal as I heard the news. I sang and played finger plays and rhythm games with the assembly of students as their parents and caregivers came to pick them up. At one point, the principal asked me to go upstairs to help shut all the windows as smoke and ash were blowing over the river to the Heights. While in my classroom, I saw the closest tower collapse and heard a terrible roar. I called my husband to tell him what I saw. I also asked for an update on our daughters who attended middle and high school in Manhattan. Back in the basement, more children had left, and lunch was going to be served to the remaining children. The principal had called for a social worker from the Department of Education to come to the school to talk to the four teachers who witnessed the event. I remember describing what I saw, while needing to remain composed for my charges, and at one point, I screamed. Later I was able to go back into the lunch room to monitor the kids. I smiled a lot, and told them everything would be okay. I stayed at the school until 5 pm when my last student was picked up. 
    Then I went to my husband’s studio, found out that our daughters were okay, and would be spending the night with different friends in Manhattan because the MTA was shut down, and we went to a local diner for lunch at 5:30 pm after checking at our synagogue to see what time services would be held. We found out that we were meeting at a local church, and hoped our rabbi, who was the Jewish Chaplin of the Fire Department, was okay. After we tried to eat, we went home to get scarves to cover our noses, and made our way through the thick smoke to the church on the corner of our block. Many congregants and parishioners were there. We saw our rabbi walk in, his fire hat and coat were totally covered in ash. One of our daughters stayed with a friend whose father was a writer for New York Magazine who, after he heard that I saw the terrorist attack, asked her to ask me if I could be interviewed. I agreed. 
    Back at work in the classroom, near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, every time fire engines, or ambulances wailed, one of my students turned up the volume of the radio which was now tuned to WQXR  to drown out the sirens. Our family attended memorials for those who perished, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer which was treated. Ten years later, something in my other breast looks “suspicious” and the biopsy will be 9/13/11. 

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