A turning point
20 years ago, when the U.S. was attacked on September 11, 2001, MCHS students were not yet born, but MCHS teachers and staff members will never forget that momentous day
September 11, 2021
September 11, 2001 was a turning point in history, and continues to be a day of remembrance, mourning, and loss for many. Every year, the U.S. honors the memory of the 2,977 people who died that day by telling their stories, and other’s personal experiences on the longest 102 minutes America has ever seen.
A Tuesday that seemed perfect for learning quickly turned into a nightmare for students and teachers, including MCHS staff members. They watched as the smoke billowed into the skies and filled the hearts of many Americans.
Ray Currie, Biology Teacher
“The 20th anniversary, like every anniversary of 9/11, makes me feel sad for the families who lost loved ones to such a horrific event. However, it also makes me feel proud to be an American. Our military and government has protected us from any further foreign attacks on our soil and for that I am proud and very thankful.” – Ray Currie
The day started out normally at MCHS’s East Campus. Classes had just started back at school, because the year used to start after labor day. Just before 9:00 a.m. Linda Usrey, the librarian at the time, came down the hall and said that a plane hit one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
At the time, all Currie could do was watch the TV in fear as reporters talked of the damage at the World Trade Center and Pentagon in Arlington, VA. Soon after, the second plane hit and everyone realized this was an attack on the United States by another country.
Terror washed over everyone in the school as they realized the reality of what was going on. Currie and all the other teachers at East spent their classes watching the live coverage of the events with students.
There was no way to make sense of what they were witnessing on the news — the sheer carnage that was September 11, 2001. Currie found that 9/11 is “definitely the scariest and saddest day I had ever experienced in school.”
Dale Gross, Business Teacher
“[The 20th anniversary of 9/11] reminds me of how lucky we are to live in a country where those types of horrible events are rare.” – Dale Gross
At 35, Dale Gross walked into Harper College, where he was employed at the time, and was greeted by the sight of his boss sitting on a set of stairs, obviously very upset. That is the exact moment when Gross learned what was going on. A plane had struck one of the Twin Towers, and reality hit.
His boss asked him to go and get TV carts so teachers and students alike could watch the news and avoid spreading misinformation and fear around the campus.
Natalie Murphy, Social Science Teacher
“They conducted the day as normal so that us students were not scared or nervous or anything like that.” – Natalie Murphy
A junior in high school, Natalie Murphy was sitting in her second period American Studies class at MCHS’s West Campus. The day was seemingly normal enough — that is until another student ran into class late telling the whole class, “A plane hit the World Trade Center.”
Because of the time and place, students did not have easy access to the news and current events to the extent of students twenty years later. Additionally, West Campus was under construction at the time, causing the TVs that were in classrooms to not work, the information trickled around the school, filling everyone with anxiety and fear over the unknown.
“We couldn’t text our parents or go online to see what was going on,” Murphy states. Some teachers even put on the radio to try and keep up-to-date with what was happening and the wreckage that was going on around the country.
Though, for the most part, teachers tried to keep the day as normal as possible for the sake of the students. Many did not see footage of the September 11 attacks until they got home and were able to watch the news.
Barb Drufke, Art Teacher
“I still have a feeling of sadness, but remember how much my family and future husband came together at such a time. When I take an airplane and am going through TSA, I think about a more trusting time in the world.” – Barb Drufke
The pavement rushed under Barb Drufke as she travelled from West Campus to East on September 11, 2001. Suddenly a wave of disbelief and sadness shuddered through her when she heard on the radio out a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers.
This same disbelief continued as she heard, “A second plane has just crashed into the South Tower.” Drufke couldn’t believe that the news of one one plane crashing turned into the news of a second, a third, and a fourth.
The only immediate reaction she could have at that moment was sadness and fear for what could happen next. The possibility of more horrors hung over every American’s head as they took in the news.
Drufke spent the day with her students watching the news in observance of this tragedy, feeling the immediate after effects. “Society was quite different immediately after and we are still feeling the effects of it,” she remembered. “Our sense of security was shattered.”
Betsy Goy, English Teacher
“It was very weird to be standing there in real time watching a news cast that way live, and actually see the plane hit.” – Betsy Goy
At the University of Illinois, junior Betsy Goy had just woken up to get ready for her first class. It started around noon today, so she had time to sleep in. When she did get up, she found some of her friends staring anxiously at the TV while others frantically run around talking to each other about a plane hitting the World Trade Center.
The panic written all over everyone’s faces confused Goy, so she watched the TV with them. Suddenly, a second plane collided with the South Tower. Ash and smoke billowed up and loose papers flew with the debris. Shock trickled through everyone’s fear-stricken features. It didn’t feel real to be watching live footage and see the damage in real-time.
Everyone sat together on the couch trying to watch and keep track of what was going on around them. Goy was worried about her parents, afraid that Chicago might be next city attacked. No one knew the true extent of the situation, and everyone wanted to go and see their parents, as war could be on the horizons for the U.S.
People flooded gas stations trying to get gas. Over 30 cars sat in line, waiting in excruciating anticipation. All anyone wanted to do was make sure their family was okay.
Goy called her parents. No one knew what to do, including her. All anyone could do was worry and try to get home as fast as they could. The world felt like it had stopped turning — and, for a minute, it had. The world stood still holding its breath.
After September 11, 2001 the U.S. and the rest world collectively began to breathe. Friends helped each other mourn. Family told their stories. Everything felt different, even outside of the U.S., but one thing remained constant: even amongst tragedies, a force pulled people together, a shared desire to help the people mourning as well as help each other heal from experiencing this tragedy.