9/11 Twenty Years Later

Saylor Campbell

Assistant Editor


Austin Color Guard presentation at 9/11 memorial service

This Saturday marks the twenty-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. It’s common among those who experienced the events from that day to recall where they were, who they were with, and how they felt with vivid memory. We spoke with members of the faculty who were at Austin during the September 11 attacks and asked how we can honor those who lost their lives as we reflect on the impact of that tragic day.

“What do you remember about that day prior to the attacks, and what was the atmosphere in the school after they occurred?”

Ms. Grigassy: "I believe it was a Tuesday, and it was a regular school day. Then a senior came in while I was having first period and he said, “Did you hear that a plane hit the World Trade Center?”, and I said, “No I haven’t heard this.” At first, I thought that it was a little plane, nothing that big. Then, more people came in and we began to hear more about what was happening. Our principal at the time did a good job of keeping everybody calm. We had TVs in the room and all day long we watched tv to keep up with what was going on. Everything kept filtering down to us throughout the day, and we all checked on each other. I remember calling my daughters and my husband, and people didn’t get emotional until later when they considered how horrific the whole event was.”

Ms. Richoux: “It was a sunny day, it was normal, and I was lecturing, and then we got an email saying that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At first, we didn’t believe that it was a big deal, but then our principal sent us another email telling us that an attack was going on. I was in K5 at the time and I remember the ROTC kids doing their routines outside. Right after the plane hit the pentagon, I told Master Chief, and I literally saw the blood drain from his face. They allowed us to watch the events on tv, and I remember watching it all day, because we were all unsure of what was going on.”

“What was you and your students’ response after hearing about the events from that day?”

Ms. Grigassy: “Everybody was in shock and horrified that something like that could happen. We wanted to know how it happened, and why, and who had carried out the attack. In this way, I think the events united everyone, because everybody was on the same page.”

Ms. Richoux: “There was a lot of disbelief over what was going on. A lot of students were impacted directly as well. I had a student whose brother was working at the World Trade Center, and he happened to go out for a break and had left his phone upstairs, so his family was unable to contact him. I had another student who had gotten a call saying that her dad had just missed his flight flying out of Boston. The thing that really hit home was how school kind of stopped. I had kids come into my class and stay there all day, while others’ parents came and took them home. At the time cell phones were pretty much forbidden, and yet everybody had their phones out, parents were calling their kids, there was so much going on. It was very surreal.”

“How can we best honor those who lost their lives on that day?”

Ms. Grigassy: “One of the things I really like that I saw on TV the other day was a ceremony for a woman named Lauren, who was from Houston, and had lost her life that day. Her folks have been really involved since her death. They planted a garden in her honor and made a statue of her. Her family was so proud of her because she was one of the people on the plane that crashed in the field, and she helped crash that plane. Each family does what they can, because to them it’s like it happened yesterday, twenty years haven’t gone by to them.”

Ms. Richoux: “I do like that we honor the first responders who lost their lives. We saw images of police officers and firefighters going to the scene and realized later that they weren’t coming back, so I think that honoring them and those who lost their lives on that day is very important.”

Following the attacks, how do you think we came together as a country and a school?

Ms. Grigassy: “I think, and it’s sad because at that time everybody came together and people from all over the United States came out to look for bodies and help in the relief effort, the President tried to help too, and everyone was on the same side, whereas now you have two sides. But at that time everyone was unified. I think it also helped the country to unite for President Bush because there was such a divisiveness as to if he won the presidency or not, and it made it real that the country was united with the president during that time to resolve this conflict.”

Ms. Richoux: “I think we need to realize that that was a day that very much unified the country. Regardless of what country people were from, or their religious background, the president at the time made it very clear that this was an attack by a few people, it was not an attack by a religion. It was very unifying, when everyone returned to school the next day, we all had a common connection.”

As we observe the twenty-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, let us stand in solidarity with the surviving victims and families of those who sacrificed their lives on that fateful day. Let us see this day as an example of how our country and the people who call it home can come together, even in the most trying of times.

This Saturday marks the twenty-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. It’s common among those who experienced the events from that day to recall where they were, who they were with, and how they felt with vivid memory. We spoke with members of the faculty who were at Austin during the September 11 attacks and asked how we can honor those who lost their lives as we reflect on the impact of that tragic day.

“What do you remember about that day prior to the attacks, and what was the atmosphere in the school after they occurred?”

Ms. Grigassy: "I believe it was a Tuesday, and it was a regular school day. Then a senior came in while I was having first period and he said, “Did you hear that a plane hit the World Trade Center?”, and I said, “No I haven’t heard this.” At first, I thought that it was a little plane, nothing that big. Then, more people came in and we began to hear more about what was happening. Our principal at the time did a good job of keeping everybody calm. We had TVs in the room and all day long we watched tv to keep up with what was going on. Everything kept filtering down to us throughout the day, and we all checked on each other. I remember calling my daughters and my husband, and people didn’t get emotional until later when they considered how horrific the whole event was.”

Ms. Richoux: “It was a sunny day, it was normal, and I was lecturing, and then we got an email saying that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At first, we didn’t believe that it was a big deal, but then our principal sent us another email telling us that an attack was going on. I was in K5 at the time and I remember the ROTC kids doing their routines outside. Right after the plane hit the pentagon, I told Master Chief, and I literally saw the blood drain from his face. They allowed us to watch the events on tv, and I remember watching it all day, because we were all unsure of what was going on.”

“What was you and your students’ response after hearing about the events from that day?”

Ms. Grigassy: “Everybody was in shock and horrified that something like that could happen. We wanted to know how it happened, and why, and who had carried out the attack. In this way, I think the events united everyone, because everybody was on the same page.”

Ms. Richoux: “There was a lot of disbelief over what was going on. A lot of students were impacted directly as well. I had a student whose brother was working at the World Trade Center, and he happened to go out for a break and had left his phone upstairs, so his family was unable to contact him. I had another student who had gotten a call saying that her dad had just missed his flight flying out of Boston. The thing that really hit home was how school kind of stopped. I had kids come into my class and stay there all day, while others’ parents came and took them home. At the time cell phones were pretty much forbidden, and yet everybody had their phones out, parents were calling their kids, there was so much going on. It was very surreal.”

“How can we best honor those who lost their lives on that day?”

Ms. Grigassy: “One of the things I really like that I saw on TV the other day was a ceremony for a woman named Lauren, who was from Houston, and had lost her life that day. Her folks have been really involved since her death. They planted a garden in her honor and made a statue of her. Her family was so proud of her because she was one of the people on the plane that crashed in the field, and she helped crash that plane. Each family does what they can, because to them it’s like it happened yesterday, twenty years haven’t gone by to them.”

Ms. Richoux: “I do like that we honor the first responders who lost their lives. We saw images of police officers and firefighters going to the scene and realized later that they weren’t coming back, so I think that honoring them and those who lost their lives on that day is very important.”

Following the attacks, how do you think we came together as a country and a school?

Ms. Grigassy: “I think, and it’s sad because at that time everybody came together and people from all over the United States came out to look for bodies and help in the relief effort, the President tried to help too, and everyone was on the same side, whereas now you have two sides. But at that time everyone was unified. I think it also helped the country to unite for President Bush because there was such a divisiveness as to if he won the presidency or not, and it made it real that the country was united with the president during that time to resolve this conflict.”

Ms. Richoux: “I think we need to realize that that was a day that very much unified the country. Regardless of what country people were from, or their religious background, the president at the time made it very clear that this was an attack by a few people, it was not an attack by a religion. It was very unifying, when everyone returned to school the next day, we all had a common connection.”

As we observe the twenty-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, let us stand in solidarity with the surviving victims and families of those who sacrificed their lives on that fateful day. Let us see this day as an example of how our country and the people who call it home can come together, even in the most trying of times.

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