Your Break Between Classes

A Regular Day Gone Wrong

The World Trade Center emits smoke off in the distance from the Statue of Liberty on 9/11.
The World Trade Center emits smoke off in the distance from the Statue of Liberty on 9/11. National Park Service

Sept. 11, 2001, started off as a regular day in Mrs. Buffilino’s fourth-grade class. I remember walking into the room and being asked to take out our notebooks and write down the agenda. It was 8:10 a.m., and school had started just a few days earlier.  We began the lesson of the day around 8:30 a.m. While we were studying English and getting to know each other’s names, American Airlines flight 11 had been hijacked in Boston and was crashing into the first tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. in Manhattan.

I remember Mrs. Buffilino being so happy and full of joy that morning as she sat in her chair and ate her favorite snack, ironically an apple with peanut butter. While eating her apple, she answered questions about her personal life. She had just gotten married to the love of her life; she told us that he was a businessman. We were still getting to know each other, sharing our hobbies and favorite songs, when United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m.

Around 9:30, Mrs. Buffilino got a call that changed her face of joy to a blank stare as she gasped for air. That phone call instantly changed everyone’s life in that classroom. Mrs. Buffilino broke down in front of the whole class, falling back in her chair and crying as the class asked her what was wrong. Then an announcement on the loud speaker told us that school was shutting down, because of a major accident. Mrs. Buffilino told us that her husband worked on the top floor where the accident was happening as she looked at their wedding photo on her desk. She called him countless times as she cried in front of the class.

Soon, a swarm of parents came to the school and began taking their kids home; their faces were filled with worry and fear. My grandmother rushed my cousin and me home so she could watch the news and find out what was happening. As soon as she opened the front door, she turned on her portable black and white television. The reporter said that it was a terrorist attack, but that they didn’t know if more planes would be crashing. Then at 9:59 a.m., I watched the building, where my classmates and I stood on the roof during a visit the year before, fall in 10 seconds flat.

All I could think of was what happened to Mrs. Buffilino’s husband.

Reports of more planes crashing around the United States started coming in. While a reporter was talking on the street, the south tower fell live on the air at 10:28 a.m. and blacked out the city. All cell phones became inoperable and landlines were too busy to make a call. Eventually, my whole family met up at my grandmother’s house, and everybody was OK.

I still couldn’t stop thinking about my teacher’s husband.

Schools in New York went on a break after the attacks, but reopened a week later. On my first day back at school, Mrs. Buffilino had the same joyful smile as when I met her. She told us that her husband was OK. On his way to his job, he started feeling sick for some weird reason and returned home. He had never missed a day of work.

Sept. 11th will forever be remembered as one of the most horrific days in American history. That day tore my city apart but showed us that in times of need we should work together to heal.  I am 22 years old now and in college at Howard University. New York City just reopened the memorial tower to show respect for the 2,753 people who lost their lives on the same land.




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