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Commemorating The Fifteenth Anniversary of a Life Changing Event in U.S. History

Estefany Carranza-Orellana, Reporter

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It was only 15 years ago when the people of the United States experienced a life changing event. For those too young to remember the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, students from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School interviewed members of their community to tell the story.

8:46 – American Airlines flight #11 hits the World Trade Center’s North Tower in New York.

Barbara Lofty, DCPS business manager for After School For All: “I was at work at DCPS headquarters and someone said, ‘Lord have mercy, airplanes have hit the World Trade Center!’”

Lisa Parrish, Secret Service worker and D.C. resident:  “I was in a training class at the U.S. Secret Service Headquarters. It was a beautiful day, but when I got to the training class there were people there in tears. I asked what was going on and was told that airplanes had hit one of the twin towers.  That was why everyone was upset, we had people that went there to work and they were in the buildings.”

Adriano Diaz, a New York Police Department Detective, was questioning if it was only an accident.  

Lynn Banks, a D.C. resident, recalls holding onto her infant child and sitting in silence as she watched the news.

Barbara Lofty, an employee of DCPS After School For All, remembers the sadness of the day.

Photo by Autumn Parrish
Barbara Lofty, an employee of DCPS After School For All, remembers the sadness of the day.

9:03 – United Airlines flight#175 crashes into the World Trade Center South Tower.

Lisa Parrish:  “After another hour of the class… we were told that we could leave as another plane hit the other tower.”

Allison James, a flight attendant and New York resident was not on a plane that day, but as hijackers were deliberately crashing planes into the towers, she recalled her training:  “We were taught to pretend like nothing is happening, god forbid there is something wrong with the plane, but keep a straight face and to remain very professional.”

Secret Service employee Lisa Parrish was at work when the first airplane hit the World Trade Center.

Photo by Autumn Parrish
Secret Service employee Lisa Parrish was at work when the first airplane hit the World Trade Center.

9:37 – Hijackers crash American Airlines flight #77 into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C..

Lisa Parrish: “We were told that planes were headed our way and to leave [the class]. It took me 3 hours to get home which was only 4 miles. No phones worked, I had no idea how to call my daughter’s school. All communication was cut off.”

Anita Berger, Banneker principal, was teaching a health class that day when they turned on the TV to watch. She tried to keep students calm as the security of her own son was running through her mind. She said the smoke from the Pentagon was visible at Banneker, and she later learned that some students and teachers from D.C.’s Leckie Elementary School were on a field trip to the Pentagon that day. Many Banneker parents fought terrible traffic to pick up their students.

Felicita Garcia, D.C. resident: “We were in the cafeteria, and we were able to see the smoke from the Pentagon. When that happened the city just stopped.”

Mandi Jacobson, a Banneker biology teacher, was continuously trying to get in contact with friends at the Pentagon.

Whitney Warren, Banneker English teacher: “ I remember walking down the hall to the back stairs and seeing a giant plume of smoke in the distance.”

Mr. Goldfarb, a Banneker History teacher, was driving near the Pentagon when the attack occurred.

Photo by Lihem Yossief
Daniel Goldfarb, a Banneker history teacher, saw the wreckage at the Pentagon the day after the attack occurred.

9:59 – The South Tower collapses.

Shaw librarian Camille Ashford was a student at H.D. Woodson High School that day: “Other kids were hysterical – shouting at the teacher things like, ‘We’re about to die’, ‘THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END!’, and stuff like that.”

As the South Tower collapsed, D.C. resident Roblyn Lewter was desperately trying to get in contact with her family in New York.

Donald Josey: “My reaction was nervous and angry because at the time my sister worked across the street from the World Trade Center and nobody was able to reach her.”

Lynn Banks remembers calling her friend who lived in New York at the time: “I could hear her sobbing through the phone, and they were these heart-wrenching sobs.”

Camille Ashford, Shaw librarian, was in high school on September 11, 2001.

Photo by Maya Branch
Camille Ashford, Shaw librarian, was in high school in D.C. on September 11, 2001.

10:07- Flight #93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

Scott Davis, a teacher in Miami: “I was scared. We heard of other planes that were unaccounted for and were not sure where they were going to strike next.”

Whitney Warren: “It was a terrifying day, no one really knew the full extent of what happened and rumors began to spread that a plane had hit the White House and Capitol.”

Felicitia Garcia: “We were watching the people throwing themselves from the towers. I was paranoid and scared.”

Robyn Lewter, DC resident, had just dropped off her daughter at daycare when she heard the news that the World Trade Center had been hit.

Photo by Sierra Lewter
Roblyn Lewter, DC resident, rushed back to daycare to pick up her daughter. She was relieved to have been running late for work in downtown D.C.

10:28 – The North Tower collapses.

AP/IB Social Studies teacher Joseph Presley talked about how different things were then without smartphones and instantaneous push notifications. Information was being provided in bits and pieces. In that moment, he estimated that up to 50,000 people were in all the buildings combined and recalls thinking, “Fifty thousand people just died.”

Kay Crutchfield was working at the Labor Department where co-workers were frantic and “terrified” as events escalated, but also powerless to help: “I couldn’t do anything but feel sympathetic and pray for those who were experiencing this tragedy.”

Banneker Science teacher Mandi Jacobson was afraid to fly on a plane after the attacks occurred.

Photo by Lihem Yossief
Banneker science teacher Mandi Jacobson was afraid to fly on a plane after the attacks occurred.

Afterward

Lisa Parrish: “I will never forget that day as I was supposed to go to New York and work in the Towers myself.”

Felicita Garcia: “I’m a little scared to go anywhere really, like going to monuments, stadiums, concerts. I don’t even feel comfortable going to church. I don’t feel safe, honestly.”

Joseph Presley recalls how people of all races and ethnicities and countries came together afterward. He said these memories give us our identity:  “Remembering victims of any kind of atrocity is really important. Remember them and do them justice as individuals.”

Joseph Stephenson: “It’s honestly something hard to forget. …Although 9-11 hasn’t affected me directly it has shown me that things can happen at any time. It makes me appreciate my family and the moments I have with them – to always say ‘I love you’ before you leave and always end on a good note.”

Donald Josey, Deputy Chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection & Department for Homeland Security: “I applied for law enforcement jobs and got the job I do now. I oversee New York and New Jersey as Deputy Chief. I play my part because I keep dangerous people away from America.”

Benjamin Banneker Principal Anita Berger had never felt unsafe in the U.S. before.

Photo by Cleotilde Umana
Benjamin Banneker Principal Anita Berger had never felt unsafe in the U.S. before September 11, 2001.

Interviews conducted by Banneker Journalism Staff: Maya Branch, Massiah Butler, Estefany Carranza-Orellana, Dannielle Crutchfield, Brianna Diaz, Sierra Lewter, Lauryn Mallard, Autumn Parris, Miles Peterson, Angelica Petitlubin, Camille Stephenson, Cleotilde Umana and Lihem Yossief

Timeline obtained from History.com.

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News and Views from D.C. area High Schools
Commemorating The Fifteenth Anniversary of a Life Changing Event in U.S. History