The Day America Will Never Forget: 9/11

By: Antonea Rufa and Mabel Takona

Originally posted September 16, 2016

Fifteen years ago, September 11 became more than just a regular Tuesday in the United States. For many, this date forever marks an unforgettable memory of terror, a multitude of losses, and the ongoing emotional distress caused by this terrorist attack. For some, this event is marked as one that brought out compassion and empathy among the masses. For others, it simply allowed them to join together as Americans and help their country’s people at a dire time of need. Every person impacted by this tragedy has a different story to be told. At Thornton Donovan School, a few teachers shared their memory of this day and how it affected their lives.


Q: Where were you when you were first informed about the attack?

Ms. Colangelo: “It was my very first day of teaching. That day, the school psychologist came in and asked me if I was doing okay. When I was informed of the tragedy, I was absolutely heartbroken. As time went on, some parents came into the classroom to take the children home.

Dr. Allen: “I was on my way to my office in Stanford Hospital and I did not know it had happened, but as soon I got past the door, my secretary told me that an airplane had struck the World Trade Center. Having been on their on the top floor, I, at first, thought it was interesting because if you were there, you could see someone in a small plane just a few yards away…. Subsequent to that, I was most astounded by the fact that they had asbestos, which causes cancer, in the building. It was used to insulate buildings and to keep steel from rusting things of that nature. I don’t believe anyone ever anticipated that when they built that building or any other that planes would be flying into it. I knew from that day that there would be severe consequences from all of that asbestos being released into Lower Manhattan and I think history has proven that to be a fact.

Q: In what way were you affected?

Ms. Pugliese: “I was emotionally disturbed as most were. Sometimes when I traveled to New Jersey, crossing the George Washington Bridge and not seeing the World Trade Center, I would start to tear up and cry. For me it was very disturbing and, till this day, I will get very emotional when I look across the George Washington Bridge and not see the towers there.

Ms. Colangelo: “It was scary. I was afraid because I heard the fighter jets above us and it made me think that we were going to be attacked again at any given time. My mother was raised during the war and she was very scared because the noise of the planes brought back a lot of memories for her as well.

Mr. Chapin: “When I heard about it, I was blank at first, I didn’t know what to think. Eventually I became scared because nothing like that had ever happened in my lifetime. As the day progressed and I saw kids getting pulled out of classes because their parents weren’t coming home that day or teachers who couldn’t get in touch with their spouses, I started to really understand how awful it all was. When I got home, I cried. For a long time, I cried in the arms of my cleaning lady Beatrice because I was so sad.”

Q: How do you think it affected the people around you? Positively or negatively?

Ms. Pugliese: “I spoke with a couple of friends of whom their husbands were firefighters, part of the New Rochelle Force, and they were devastated. You could tell how disturbed they were by the whole event. They were overwhelmed and they described some of the things that they saw. They found body parts and remembered how awful the smell of it was. They were very serious about it. One of them had a humorous personality, but he was very serious when I spoke with him. He got teary-eyed which was very unusual. When it comes to myself, family, and friends, everybody was affected by this, in that, everyone consoled others. It affected people in a way that they were more friendly and compassionate toward one another, whether they were directly affected by it or not.”

Ms. Colangelo: “We were all in shock. A couple of people I know cancelled travel plans and some were afraid to go into the city. An old friend of mine called up crying that one of his friends had passed away because of it. It deeply affected every New Yorker in some way.”

Mr. Chapin: “While I had watched on the news that there were some isolated attacks and beatings of practicing Muslims, what I really saw in my community was that everyone banded together. Everyone went to prayer services, hung American flags outside their houses, and this endured for a couple months until everyone felt comfortable enough again to start being their usual selves.”

Dr. Allen: “Whenever we travel, we now have to plan for extra time in order to go through a lot of security. If you are selected randomly, your hands are tested to see if you have come into contact with nitrates which are associated with explosives. That means that if you’ve been watering and fertilizing your roses without thoroughly washing your hands afterwards, there would be a lot of explaining in order. I believe that the outcome is more negative for women who have to empty purses and let people go through their personal items.

Q: Do you believe that it brought the community closer together?

Ms. Colangelo: “Definitely. New Yorkers are often misjudged to be cruel and uncaring; however, that was not the case. I watched on the news that people shared asthma pumps. Being asthmatic, myself, I would have done the same. I know how hard it is to breathe and it really showed how the community was pulled together to help each other in this tragedy.”

Mr. Chapin: “I think it absolutely did bring people together. I also think that it shattered America’s naive view of their place in the world, believing that they were insulated from terrorism and strife that had been seen in other countries across the globe. As Americans, it forced us to be more aware of our immediate surroundings, and the global community’s issues, not just affecting them but affecting all of us. It changed our view of the world and our place in it. It no longer was us and them, but it became all of us.”

Dr. Allen: “Initially, I do because everyone was saying that whoever is responsible for that awful act that resulted in approximately three-thousand deaths should have to account for it. I think that brought the whole country together. Subsequent to that, I think that what happened with the weapons and mass destruction and the fact that they were not there caused for a lot of strife in the country which has not healed to this day in America and in the Middle East.”

Q: Are there any last words you would like to end with?

Ms. Pugliese: “I hope that people don’t forget to try to keep that same friendliness and connectedness to other human beings that we had back then, which is sometimes lost.”

Ms. Colangelo:I will never forget the people that were in the towers, waving from the windows. That will always stay with me because they were hoping they would be saved. The memory of the tower falling after that will always stick with me.”

Mr. Chapin: “I think it is important that newer generations understand the significance of that day. They need to know that it’s not just a hollow day of remembrance even if some weren’t directly affected by it. There should be an understanding of its significance because of the lives that were lost, because of what happened in reaction to that, and because of what continues to happen today in the fight against terrorism. I believe kids need to keep learning about it in order to appreciate the freedoms, and not take our armed services and police officers for granted.”

Dr. Allen: “I’ve been to the museum and that is quite an experience to see the faces of the people who had to vanish in the way which they did. Seeing the remnants of the buildings and the emergency vehicles with your own eyes gives you some tiny resemblance of what it must have been like there.”