9/11 20th anniversary 

September 11, 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.


Taken by Jake Cohen

New York City

September 11, 2021 marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack that took 2,996 lives. While students were not alive during this critical point in history, teachers at the school remember these moments vividly.

   Imagine being at school and there is a terrorist attack a few blocks away. For Mr. James Sample, Equity and Excellence Coordinator at the school, that was reality.

    “The second plane went in [the tower] and not too long after, I remember the plane went into the Pentagon, and we were realizing we were, in a sense, under attack. So [I] was just … overwhelmed and afraid,” said Mr. Sample 

     Mr. Sample was at Williamsburg Middle school (WMS) at the time of the attack, and as soon as the plane hit the Pentagon, parents rushed to get their children home. He wasn’t allowed to leave until every student had left the building. Afterward, he went straight home, parking his car at Washington-Liberty High School, and taking the train because all of the roads were closed. 

  “The country was trying to grasp what happened,” Mr. Sample said. “The coverage of people losing their families, what happened to New York City? All the rubble, all the debris…how does New York heal?…It was a grieving process.”

    So many people had lost loved ones and didn’t know if they felt safe in their own country anymore. Sample described the day as traumatizing, especially for the people of New York. 

     “We [had] no idea what’s going on,” Mr. Jacob Lloyd, an English teacher, said regarding the moment the principal of his high school announced that New York had been attacked by terrorists.

    Mr. Lloyd was a junior at the time attending a school in Richmond. Even though he was not in close range of the attack, knowing how devastating the aftermath was for New York, along with knowing how many people were hurt, was crushing. 

      “We didn’t have phones or computers so the only information that we had was what he [the principal] told us,” Mr. Lloyd said

   The class was silent trying to take in what they just heard and they didn’t have information to look at from the internet, which made it even more nerve wracking because they didn’t have access to the news that easily.

   “The two tallest buildings in America and for them to be destroyed like that…It wasn’t scary at that moment, it was just hard to understand,”Mr. Lloyd said.

   Mr. Lloyd was passing a classroom that had the news on, watching the two skyscrapers fall. He remembers the first thing he thought about was the building being destroyed, then the realization that so many people had just passed came delayed.

   “I still remember it so clearly,” Ms. Chrissy Steury, a social studies  teacher who was teaching in Alexandria when the attack happened, said. 

  “The principal came on the intercom and said, “Please turn on your TVs” …I don’t know why she said that, I guess she wanted us to be aware,” Steury said.

She thought it was peculiar that the principal told them to turn on their TVs but understood as she saw the second plane hit the second tower.

 “There was a student in my class whose dad was a pilot and he was flying out of Boston,” Ms. Steury said. “One of the planes that hit the tower came out of Boston.”

    Considering phones weren’t so advanced back then, the student had a hard time contacting his parents. The whole class was on edge about it, but all the planes that were in the air during the attack had to land wherever they were so, fortunately, they turned out to be fine. 

“We saw the plane hit the Pentagon,” Ms Stuery said.

   Devastating enough the aftermath of the whole attack led to a student’s parent being killed in the pentagon, she believes that is the worst outcome that happened.

 “Now I can really empathize as a mom,” Ms. Steury said. ”I would’ve jumped up, left everything just to go get my kids, to make sure they were safe.”

 After the Pentagon was hit, parents came to get their kids quickly. At the time, she wasn’t a mother, but now she can understand their concern as parents, especially seeing as the attack was so close, she knew she would have reacted the same way.

  Some sources said there is something scarier than 9/11 itself: the raid of the United States Capitol that took place on January 6.

    “This is the safest place, America is going to protect the Capitol, so even when they went to the Capitol on January 6, it really rocked my zone/level of safety cause I thought, we’re gonna protect, that is our Beacon of our Democracy,” Mr. Sample said

  The attack of the Capitol and 9/11 have been compared as they were both testing this country’s security and democracy. The people who attacked the Capital, who people and sources have labeled as white supremacists, were fighting for an ideology that attacks minorities.

 “I wasn’t in D.C. during the Capitol insurrection, but it was scary, both of those [9/11 and January 6th] are similar and that/because they were an attack on Democracy….but I’m not black, I understand why he [Mr Sample] that was super scared because those were white supremacists,” Ms. Steury said.

  September 11 was to teachers what January 6 was to students. Sources have described the both days as memorable and traumatizing.  

   “It is out of a disaster movie, just thinking about how hopeless I would’ve been and then you start to feel a sadness and devastation beyond just the sheer destruction of the city,”  Mr. Lloyd said.