CESJDS Remembers 9/11

CESJDS Remembers 9/11

Miriam Minsk, News Editor

Fourteen years ago from Friday began as an ordinary weekday morning. Students attended school, adults went to work and history teacher Michael Connell walked into the classroom to prep for his first class of the day at CESJDS.

However, shortly before 9 a.m. terrorists hijacked four planes, three of which crashed into the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon, the other into a field in Pennsylvania.
According to Connell, everybody at JDS began to watch the news instead of participate in class, and students were dismissed early from school.

Although September 11, 2001 may seem distant to some, as the current 7th graders were not alive yet when the attacks were carried out, it was a very significant and life changing day for many members of our community. Junior Sara Hughes’s father worked in the Pentagon for the United States Coast Guard at the time.

After initially hearing about attack in New York, Hughes’s mother picked her up from daycare and they went home to watch the news.

“We were sitting down watching the news, and all of the sudden there is breaking news ‘plane crashes into Pentagon,’” Hughes said. “My mom freaks out of course, my grandparents call, everyone calls my mom and my dad.”

Hughes’s mother tried to reach her father by cell phone, but the service was slow as everyone was calling their loved ones.

“All my mom got was a message from my dad, and his phone … died mid-call which is the scariest thing possible,” Hughes said. “He was just like, ‘I’m okay, everything’s okay, my phone is dying but I’m okay. I’ll call you when I figure out what is going on.’”

Over at the Pentagon, a fire alarm had gone off and people were evacuated to an outdoor parking lot. The faculty were not initially informed that a plane had crashed into the building. Hughes’ father’s office had been located in the wing that the plane crashed into, but was relocated around three days before the attack, so he was not physically harmed.

Connell, who had previously served in the military and worked at the Pentagon, had former friends and colleagues working in the Pentagon at the time and still feels a strong connection to Sept. 11. He said that in the aftermath of the attacks, he regretted retiring from the military.

“I wanted to be in the military to try to get back at the perpetrators,” Connell said.

This past week, junior Yoni Weiner-Tobin posted a poll in the JDS Students Facebook group asking how many students would support JDS bringing back the Sept. 11 ceremony that was discontinued last school year. 104 students replied ‘yes,’ and zero students replied ‘no.’”

Hughes agrees with this unanimous opinion, and said that her family was upset at the absence of the usual Sept. 11 assembly. Friday morning the Upper School conducted a ceremony in which each grade filed out in the front of the school and student government officers lowered the flags to half mast while Taps was played, followed by a moment of silence. She did not appreciate the flag lowering ceremony that the Upper School conducted this morning because it did not “touch” her. Connell, on the other hand, found the ceremony to be very “moving.”

“I really think the important thing is to remember what happened and gain some wisdom on how the country is proceeding,” Connell said.

Connell takes it upon himself to teach his classes about the attacks, the intelligence process, terrorism internationally and the aftermath of Sept. 11 each year.

While many JDS students expressed deep frustration about the new policy of a modified ceremony, scaling back from large ceremonies and commemorations has been nationally on the rise since 2011, the 10 year anniversary of the attacks. According to a New York Times article published in 2012, many communities feel that there needs to be a balance between commemorating Sept. 11 and moving forward past the tragedy, and recognizing that life goes on.

Photo from Creative Commons