Memories, trauma still fresh 10 years later

Painting by Allison Goodman

Sitting in her sixth grade science class inside Simon Baruch Middle School on East 21st street and 2nd avenue in Manhattan, 11-year-old Alexis de Seve thought all of her classmates were in trouble the morning of Sept. 11. One after the other, she heard the loudspeaker call for her friends to head downstairs to the main office, thinking they would each visit the principle and be reprimanded for something they did wrong.

But before her name was called, someone pointed outside the window and glared at the clouds of black smoke rising in the distance. There was no television inside the classroom and her teacher seemed oblivious to the rare occurrence. No one knew what was happening.

So when it was finally her turn to leave class, de Seve was surprised to see her dad and not the principal. Without understanding it himself, he briefly tried to explain where the black smoke came from – just a few miles south.

They rushed back to their Midtown home to reunite with family and gathered over live coverage of that morning’s events. Confused and not sure how to react, de Seve yelled out, “Those bastards!”

Not far from Simon Baruch Middle School, Tal Levy’s parents immediately rushed to pick up their 9-year-old daughter from school after seeing both towers of the World Trade Center up in flames. Levy, too, wasn’t sure how to react.

Forty-five minutes from Manhattan in Westfield, New Jersey, 12-year-old Melanie Jackson left school in the afternoon but wondered why so many others had left in the morning. The reason quickly became clear, however, when instead of the school bus, she noticed her mom at the school entrance and stared at the sky of grey ashes in the distance.

And in Maplewood, New Jersey, with a view of lower Manhattan on one side of town, 11-year-old Alexander Goldstein sat in social studies and saw the first tower of the World Trade Center collapse on live television. Goldstein turned around to the student behind him and said, “I bet you it was a terrorist.”

Though de Seve, Levy, Jackson and Goldstein were all close enough to see the smoke clouds take over the Downtown Manhattan skyline, they each paint a similar picture of bewilderment, one that was pronounced not just in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Penn., but across the country.

A decade later and now students at UM, the four of them vividly described and remember pivotal moments of Sept. 11 – from classrooms emptying before noon, to New Yorkers crying in the streets.

While a majority of college students can presumably describe the Sept. 11 attacks in a few seconds, it is unclear as to how the activities have influenced a society of individuals who have come of age in a post 9/11 global community – a community that has become accustomed to hearing of “terrorism,” al-Qaeda, weapons of mass destruction, Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan, The War On Terror, drones, water-boarding, T.S.A. and hijacking.

According to a study conducted by Arizona State University and the University of California, Irvine, “Research conducted in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks (9/11) suggests that, except for those who directly witnessed or suffered loss from the attacks, for most children the emotional impact was relatively transitory.”

It is unquestionable that 9/11 had a direct impact on the lives of every individual in this country, both young and old; it not only influenced political and social points of view, but perceptions on religion.

“I definitely think that one of the pitfalls of Sept. 11 has been a lot of negative stereotypes about certain religious groups and certain religious traditions. But one of the positive effects is that folks realize you can’t be ignorant about religion,” said Michelle Maldonado, associate professor of religious studies.

Amanullah De Sondy, visiting assistant professor of Islamic studies, shares the same positive outlook.

“There is a lot to be done. There are still forces that try to separate and to burn bridges,” he said. “And where there is one person who tries to create havoc and mayhem, there are other people who try to build bridges … do good … and create harmony and peace in society.”


Information from The New York Times

September 11, 2001 – Hijacked commercial airplanes crash into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and a field in Shanksville, Penn.

October 2001 – Envelopes containing anthrax were dropped inside a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., killing five people and sickening 17.

October 7, 2001 – The War on Terror in Afghanistan begins.

February 2002 – Former President George W. Bush increases homeland security spending from $19.5 billion to $37.7 billion.

November 2002 – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is formed.

March 2003 – The Iraq War begins.

October 2003 – Sept. 11 death toll reported reaches 2,752.

December 2003 – Saddam Hussein is captured.

July 2005 – Fifty-two people are killed in London as a result of four suicide bombings in the London Underground.

December 2009 – President Barack Obama deploys 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

May 2011 – U.S. forces kill al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

August 2011 – Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, al-Qaeda’s second in command, is killed in Pakistan in a U.S. missile strike.

September 2011 – Pakistani security forces capture senior al-Qaida commander Younis al-Mauritani.


Antenna: Protected by a fiberglass enclosure

Parapet: Covered in a a steel cap whose width equals the height of the Twin Towers

Observation Deck: On floors 100 and 101

Elevators: Five cars that will move four times faster than the average car

Curtain Walls:  Hurricane and earthquake proof glass

Shape: A perfect octogon

Offices: Seventy-one floors and 2.6 million acres of space

Underground Concourse: An underground shopping mall that will connect to the subway and train system

Base: 182 feet tall and made of concrete

Entrances: Four doorways that lead to marble-decorated lobbies.