Teachers Reflect on Where They Were During 9/11 Attacks

By Sierra Fang-Horvath and Lisi Burciaga, Print Editor-in-Chief and Feature Editor

// Today marks the 16th anniversary of September 11, 2001, the day the Twin Towers in New York City’s World Trade Center fell after two hijacked planes struck them. Al-Qaeda, a jihadist terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the horrific attacks, including two other hijacked planes that crashed into The Pentagon in Virginia and a field in rural Pennsylvania. In total, almost 3,000 people died and over 6,000 were injured, including civilians, police officers, and firefighters. Whether they were teaching in the classroom, hanging out with friends, or strolling the streets of Italy, every Acalanes staff member can clearly recall the their experiences on 9/11. Here are five of their stories.


Mary McCosker, Peer Tutoring Advisor

“I was walking around the Lafayette Reservoir with a group of friends when I first heard what happened. At first, we weren’t sure whether it was a terrorist attack, but once we heard the second tower had been hit, we know it wasn’t an accident. It was something we couldn’t believe was happening because it just seemed so surreal. It still makes me sad to see it. I was looking at Facebook today and somebody had posted the pictures of the second plane hitting the tower and it just brings back memories. It’s very sad because so much was lost in terms of human life and first responders. And even innocence is gone now that we’re involved in this global war that just seems to never end.”


Ed Meehan, Drama Teacher

“I was in my second year teaching at a middle school, and I remember waking up to the television with the news and seeing what had happened. At first I just thought it was an accident, but then over the course of the morning on the way to school as I was listening to the radio, it got progressively bad. I realized, “Oh wait, this isn’t just an accident.” But I was teaching, so I couldn’t see anything. By mid-morning, the first tower fell and then the second tower fell, and everything dissolved into pandemonium. The middle school kids couldn’t really process it. Everyone was wondering, “Are we under attack?” At that point, once those attacks happened, we were all wondering what was next. We know now that it stopped there, but there was some time there where we wondered, “When is it going to stop? Is there some target in LA or San Francisco?” There was a lot of fear. But we had to go back to school, so it was just this horrific thing hanging over us. Now, there’s a very clear sense of ‘before and after’ 9/11.”


Alefiya Shipchandler, Science Teacher

“I was actually doing my student teaching in Indiana. It was my prep period and the T.V. was on in the background while I was working. We saw the news and we were just shocked. All these news alerts kept coming and we saw the planes go through the buildings and we just couldn’t move. That was our initial reaction. Even today it’s hard to believe that that actually happened. It’s truly disturbing and I still can’t wrap my head around it.”


Christine Todd, Counseling Advisor

“When 9/11 happened I was a freshman in highschool. I just remember kind of slowly getting ready for school that morning and my sister ran in and said that the twin towers were on fire. We were watching the news and everything seemed very dismal; things just kind of seemed to stop, but we still went to school. Our teachers put the news on all day in every single class, so it was all we talked about and all we focused on. We didn’t do a lot of work that day, it was more of a day for open discussion and checking in with each other. I had a couple classmates who had family members who worked there, and thankfully most of them were either not at work that day, were traveling, et cetera, but it was just very scary for the unknown. A lot of people were scared for family members that worked in San Francisco or other big cities, because we were thinking it might happen somewhere else too. We were just watching the news and listening for updates, and it was just kind of a constant phase of paranoia. I think it made me more aware of politics, other countries and how we influence others, and just kind of being more aware of my surroundings. It made me more cautious of prejudice and things like that.”


Kristen Anderson, Social Studies Teacher

“I was celebrating the end of writing a 300 page dissertation in graduate school by taking a trip to Italy with my mom. On September 11, I was in the middle of San Gimignano in Tuscany and we saw, in the evening, all the news and it was a really real experience for me because six weeks before, at the end of July, I had just been on top of the World Trade Center and my dissertation was on President Bush’s proposed National Missile Defense System, so I had a chapter in there on al-Qaeda and terrorism. So it all felt really real to me, as academically I had been studying it and physically I had just been in New York. It was just really a profound moment, but I was happy to be with my mom.”

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