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Ella Laski

Ella Laski ‘23 gives a history of the attacks on September 11, 2001, and tells readers how Perkiomen School remembers 20 years later. 

September 11, 2021: on this day we marked 20 years since America experienced the largest foreign attack on domestic soil throughout United States history. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was a day that left a permanent stain on our country’s history. Every American who lived through that horrible day remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when the first hijacked plane hit the North Tower. Everyone paused and turned on their radios or televisions to see what was going on. Nothing could have prepared America for the events of that dreadful Tuesday morning. 

About 3,000 people woke up and left for work or to board a flight. According to many, it was a beautiful morning, and the East Coast opened its eyes underneath a cloudless blue sky. Unfortunately, that brilliant sky would soon be filled with clouds of smoke and despair. Al-Qaeda, a terrorist group based in Afghanistan founded by Osama bin Laden, carried out four terrorist attacks that day. Nineteen terrorists hijacked four commercial planes, causing destruction and fear across the United States. The initial attacks took place in lower Manhattan at the World Trade Center, a massive business complex with the 110+ story Twin Towers as the focal point. American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into floors 93-99 of the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into floors 77-85 of the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. Between 16,400 and 18,000 people were in the buildings as they were struck. Both buildings erupted into flames and collapsed due to the jet fuel from the planes. President Bush was in Sarasota, Florida, visiting a second-grade class when his chief of staff whispered in his ear at 9:05 a.m., “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.” Bush departed on Air Force One and landed in Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, not returning to Washington until that night. Less than an hour after President Bush found out about the occurrences, the next attack took place in Washington, DC. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the southwestern side of the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. The last hijacking, United Airlines Flight 93, was supposedly aiming to hit the Capitol. However, informed of the occurrences by phone, its passengers took over the plane and crashed it into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:02 a.m. 

I was not yet alive to witness the way America wept that day. However, every year, I learn something new about what happened and always lean in to hear stories, whether it be in an article, on television, or from someone else. I’ll never forget my mom telling me about how she was on her way to work in New Jersey, listening to Britney Spears on the radio, as an announcement came through about what was going on. I’ll never forget my second-grade teacher telling me about how she was a young child sitting in class when another teacher ran into the room and told them to turn on the television. I’ll never forget hearing a 911 call of a woman, working on floor 83 in a financial firm, praying the Hail Mary, and calling God’s name. I’ll never forget visiting the 9/11 Memorial with my eighth-grade class and seeing someone find a name inscribed and begin to cry. That same day, I visited the small church across the street, St. Paul’s Chapel, which was miraculously untouched by the debris from the heaps of misery surrounding it, where firefighters went to rest and volunteers provided food for the search and recovery personnel in the days following the attack. 

This year, I listened to Mrs. Weir-Smith tell the Perkiomen community about one of our own, Eric Sand, class of 1984, who passed away in the attacks while working at Cantor Fitzgerald, a firm that lost every employee that came to work that Tuesday- 685 lives. At Perkiomen, Eric was involved in football, basketball, baseball, newspaper, proctors, chorus, and more. He went to Tulane University where he majored in philosophy. Eric was a father, and especially loved his job at Cantor Fitzgerald because he was able to come home around 4 p.m. to teach his young son baseball. Eric took the job in January 2001 after he decided not to continue his music career. Like clockwork, he would call his wife around 8:45 every morning to tell her that he loved her as he had to leave early to take the train into the city. On September 11, 2001, his routine call was different. His mother-in-law picked up the phone and heard that he was trapped in the compromised building. His office was on the 106th floor. She called quickly for her daughter, but while she waited, the line went silent. After the attacks, Eric’s body was recovered. The family was incredulous, but one small detail helped them to believe. He had a small cloth in his pocket used to clean his glasses. Even while at Perkiomen, he was always wiping down the lenses. In memory of Eric Sand, Mrs. Weir-Smith told the Perkiomen community to put in the effort to get to know the people around you - ask them about their day, strike up a conversation, possibly even ask why they are always cleaning their glasses. These are words to live by, and since hearing this, I was inspired to do just that. 

September 11, 2001 stands among the worst days in our country's history that we as Americans vow to never forget. May we never forget all those who ran towards the scene as everyone else was running away. May we never forget the approximately 400 first responders who took that call knowing it could possibly be their last. May we never forget the 2,977 souls who fell victim to Al-Qaeda’s acts of cowardice and evil. May we never forget the families and friends who were never able to say goodbye. May we never forget the brave men and women who fought in the war against terror to protect our homeland. May we never forget the way America stood shoulder to shoulder, flying any American flag able to be found and volunteering to help in any way they could. May we never forget that throughout any hardship America faces, our beautiful, resilient country is home to countless heroes. May we as a Perkiomen community never forget Mrs. Weir-Smith’s imperative reminder to get to know those heroes that we can call our neighbors and friends.