Opinion: Aftershocks

On a late summer Tuesday in September 2001, Tina Sayers, my mother, started getting ready for work, preparing for a normal day at the office. Still in her bathrobe, she heard her neighbor knock on her door. 

“Turn on the TV!” the neighbor said. “The World Trade Center’s on fire!” 

She turned on The Today Show, featuring a live image of the World Trade Center’s (WTC) South Tower engulfed in flames and billowing smoke. Having just moved from Manhattan, Mrs. Sayers was stunned to see a building she knew and loved in such a state. 

When she lived in Manhattan, her husband, Jay Sayers, would play bass in the Windows to the World restaurant on the top floor of the WTC South Tower. They spent many nights with friends and family, revelling in the view from the 107th floor. 

As she watched in horror, a second plane flew into the second tower of the World Trade Center. At this point, Mrs. Sayers realized that this was no accident; America was under attack. 

“I remember being confused, afraid, and uncertain, wondering why anyone would want to do this to us,” Sayers said. “I called my father, a retired major in the Air Force and Vietnam veteran, and asked what he thought was happening. That was the first time I had ever heard of Al Qaeda, but certainly not the last.” 

As the news kept flooding in throughout the day, Sayers learned that there was also an attack on the Pentagon and a fourth plane had crashed landed in Pennsylvania. All airlines were grounded indefinitely. Nobody knew if or when there would be another attack. 

Her first instinct was to make sure that her friends and loved ones in New York City were all safe. After hours of unsuccessful phone calls and trying to establish contact, she learned that one of her friends was supposed to have a meeting at the WTC. By a stroke of luck, he was running late and was spared being a victim. Another friend watched the events from her office window in a nearby building and had to run home from downtown NYC to Brooklyn. All public transportation had been stopped. 

A family Sayers and her husband knew well were separated from each other for six hours. As their friend took her son to preschool across the street from the WTC, she watched the first plane hit the North Tower. She grabbed her son, and without a phone or wallet, ran miles away to escape the toxic dust and smoke. 

On September 11, 2001… 

125 the number of people killed at the Pentagon 

265 the number of people killed on planes in 9/11 

2,606 the number of people killed at the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers

Two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six people lost their lives in an attack on our country led by a terrorist group in Afghanistan. It was an act of hatred and cruelty that still haunts our nation today. 

Four airplanes were hijacked by 19 terrorists in an effort to incite chaos and anxiety in our country. Two planes were intentionally flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, New York. The terrorists knew that flying a commercial jetliner full of fuel would, upon impact, create enough heat to weaken the steel framework of the skyscrapers. In a shocking display that stunned all Americans, two buildings that were thought to be indestructible, fell from the sky into a pile of rubble. 

A third airplane was flown into the Pentagon, headquarters for the Department of Defense, killing over 100 people. 

Aboard the last jetliner, passengers received word that their plane was hijacked, so they heroically overthrew the terrorists, and purposefully crashed the plane in a Pennsylvania field. The plane was reported to be targeting either the White House or the Capitol Building. The brave acts of those on board saved a countless number of casualties, but nonetheless left our country to mourn the death of the 40 citizens lost in the crash. 

Timeline of the events on Sept. 11: 

8:46 a.m. ET – American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower of the World Trade Center in NYC. 

9:03 a.m. ET – United Airlines Flight 175 struck the south tower of the World Trade Center.

9:37 a.m. ET – American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon Building in Washington.

9:59 a.m. ET – The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses in less than 10 seconds.

10:03 a.m. ET – United Airlines Flight 93 was crashed by passengers in a field near Shanksville, PA.

10:28 a.m. ET – The north tower of the World Trade Center collapses. 

On September 4, 2019, students at Eureka High School were thrown into chaos during their first Flex period because of an intruder alarm. In panic, many of us feared for our lives in a response to a possible threat. 

The alarm was tripped by a malfunction in the technical system at Eureka High School; a severe problem that staff and administration are devoting their time into fixing. 

During the alarm, students found themselves fleeing the building and evacuating.

In my personal situation, I was in a classroom with other girls, most of them younger than me, all of them praying together in hopes that they would make it out alive. 

We live in a country where students and children are forced to fear everything outside their bedroom door. They are taught from a young age that the “real” world is full of hate and brutality. Now, in the 21st century, students no longer feel safe in their schools. Acts of violence have reached within school walls, more so now than ever. 

Since September 2001… 

684 the number of people killed in mass shootings since September 11, 2001 

283 U.S shootings in 2019, as of September 1st 

9,932 deaths by gun wounds in just 2019 

After the attack on our country on September 11, 2001, people feared for their lives in the days following. Nobody knew what would happen or if the attacks would end. 

What would happen tomorrow? 

Many of us feared going to school the day after the intruder alarm. We wondered if the chaos of the situation would motivate a real intruder to attack our school. Though our administration is doing all to make us safe, we do not feel safe. 

In both of these instances, people feared the unknown. Mankind does not want to feel insecure and vulnerable. 

Shootings are so frequent in our country that it leaves us to fear that any day could harbor a catastrophic event. As of September 1, 2019, there were more shootings than days so far in the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It leaves myself to wonder, when will it end? Is our society becoming numb to seeing a new shooting pop up every day on our news feed? 

Last week was a reminder of just how damaging gun violence has been on innocent lives. The trauma that follows such an event does not fade easily, though we are forced to face society and its expectation that we move forward through life. 

I interviewed Principal Charlie Crouther and asked him about ‘The Event’ that occurred on September 4. 

“We are aware,” Crouther said in response to whether or not our society needs to be more prepared for an attack. “For the most part, the United States and the world are prepared. Principal Calhoun has a quote, something that we used in an administrative meeting, and someday we are going to put this out into our community, that says ‘It is hard to put logic in an illogical setting.’” 

‘It is hard to put logic in an illogical setting.’

That quote puts both September 11th’s events and last week’s into an entirely new perspective. We do not need to understand the trauma and pain that follows chaos. We need to use it, in hopes of inspiring future change so that no one else need experience what we went through. 

We remember those who lost their lives on 9/11, just like we will remember ‘The Event” from last week. As students today, it is our generation that will need to spark the change. We can choose to feel safe, and we can choose to live. I ask you, the students and community of Eureka High School, to not allow these acts of violence become our ‘normal.’

We are not meant to live in fear of the coming days. We are meant to change the world for the better and to motivate the rest of society to do the same. Do not let the aftershock of everything that has happened, hinder you from being a voice, calling for a better world among the chaos. 

In the words of John Lennon, who was killed 39 years ago… 

“Imagine all the people

Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one”