B-A teachers remember 9/11 on 20th anniversary

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Brad Maule

It’s been 20 years since the worst terror attack in U.S. history. B-A teachers reflect on the event as they experienced it.

Kyra SMithmyer, Staff Writer

What have I brought you into?”

— Mrs. Frank

On 9/11 Bellwood-Antis math teacher Dawn Frank was a teacher at Bishop Guilfoyle. When she arrived home on the day of the attacks the first thing she thought to do was hug her son, who was one-year old at the time, and say, “What have I brought you into?”  

 “Every student and every teacher was just in shock and disbelief after watching both the twin towers being hit by the highjacked planes,” said Mrs. Frank. “One of the boys faces in my class was as white as your notebook paper. That’s when I realized his brother had just started working at the Pentagon, so he was terrified when the news started talking about where else could be targeted.” 

Twenty years ago, on September 11, 2001, the terrorist group al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden highjacked 4 planes and turned them into tools of terror. Two went into the World Trade Center buildings in New York City, another  went into the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and one crashed in rural Pennsylvania, brought down by passengers attempting to prevent another attack.

Memories of that day are rekindled every September, but never more than this year, exactly two decades after the tragedy.

As Mrs. Frank also thought about the 20th anniversary of 9/11, she talked to her husband and said, “Its hard to believe it’s been 20 years. I’m sure to the people that it happened to who were there and to the people that lost loved ones it feels like it just happened yesterday. It was a day I will never forget.”  

After hearing stories of the firefighters and volunteers, Mrs. Frank said it really amazed her that somebody would give their life to run into one of the towers knowing the second tower had just fallen. “The following days were very unsettling, just trying to figure out if that was the end or if something else was going to occur. What were the ramifications going to be, and how are we going to retaliate?” 

I saw it on the TV firsthand, the second plane going into the south tower. When the second plane hit, that’s when I knew it was intentional.”

— Mrs. Carney

 B-A math teacher Holly Carney was in tenth grade at Bishop Guilfoyle in a history class on the morning of the attack. At 8:46 a.m., when a plane hit the first tower, there was panic in the air, she said.

“We didn’t have a TV in our room, so when they found out the first plane hit, they took us across the hall to a room that did have a TV,” Mrs. Carney recalled. “They turned on the TV and we were watching the news and what was going on, and that’s when the second plane hit.  I saw it on the TV firsthand, the second plane going into the south tower. When the second plane hit, that’s when I knew it was intentional.” 

Mrs. Carney said parents were chaotically calling in and getting their kids out of school.

“The uncertainty of it was terrifying, especially being in tenth grade,” she said. 

For Mr. Carney, the days following the attack were spent constantly watching the news, like most Americans.

“Hearing everything going on with the first responders, praying for the people that they were still trying to rescue out of the rubbish, it was tough because it happened in New York, and Pennsylvania is so close. Even a lot of local firefighters and anybody available was going to New York to help.” 

The tragedy was difficult to process, said Mr. Elder. Mr. Elder, a seventh grader at the time of the attack. He was in the Tyrone Area Middle School in an English class reading the Hobbit.

For him, the event changed when hijacked planes struck close to home. Flight 93, which was headed for Washington D.C., crashed in Shanksville in Somerset County, brought down by passengers on board who were aware of terror attacks by plane in New York.

“A teacher came in and plugged the TV, so we knew what was going on, but understanding was hard,” he said. “We went into lockdown because of the plane that crashed in Somerset. At that point, people didn’t really know what was going to be attacked. After the realization of the planes crashing in Somerset, there was a lot of fear.  

English teacher Mr. Kerry Naylor was a teacher at Tyrone Area Middle School and was in his planning period.

“I ran into Mr. Abbott walking down the hall, and he told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center,” Mr. Naylor said. “Knowing a plane had hit the Empire State Building once because it had gotten lost, I thought it was an accident. During second period, a teacher across the hall told me another plane hit the second tower, and immediately my heart just sank.”

The thing that made the day so terrible, Naylor said, was that “it seemed to never stop escalating, which made it difficult to wrap your mind around it. The situation continued to morph, and not for the better. One plane hit, then another, and then the Pentagon. After that, it felt like were at war and under attack. Then the plane went down in Shanksville, and all the sudden no one was safe.”  

Mr. Naylor said 9/11 affected millions of people because it was broadcast in real time, so everyone had a chance to experience it firsthand.

“We were glued to our TVs and immersed in the events that were unfolding. Walking around that day everyone felt like they were in a fog or haze,” he said. “I remember going to the gym that night and thinking ‘Why am I even doing this?’ The first guy I saw at the gym, we passed each other, looked at each other, and just shook our heads. We were all feeling the same shock, dismay, and confusion. “

One B-A employee was a close participant in the events of 9/11. Superintendent Dr. Thomas Mc Inroy was teaching at Shanksville Elementary.

Americans in the aftermath were left to wonder what would come next and what it all meant.  

“At the end of the day, they just canceled after-school activities and sent us home,” said Mr. Elder. “For the next couple of days teachers helped students process and understand what had just happened to America.”

In the months and years to come, America went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq, and launched a War on Terror that continues to this day. Last month, the U.S. pulled its troops out of Afghanistan, ending a war that lasted 20 years.

“I will never forget going to bed that night, almost in tears,” said Mr. Naylor. “We finally had relative peace in the U.S. after the end of the Cold War in the early 90’s, but now I knew things would never be the same again.”