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Reflections on 9/11

East teachers and alumni talk about their experiences on September 11, 2001

September 12, 2019

Photo by Natalee Connatser
9/11 Memorial in New York City

The day was September 11, 2001. A Tuesday that was filled with such great sorrow and anger, that eventually turned into a sense of patriotism in the hearts of many Americans. This was the day that would ignite the chain reaction known as the war on terror, that would continue for years to come. While the city of New York was in a state of complete disarray and smoke, the walls of Lincoln East were filled with nothing but anxiousness. 

We have talked to a number of teachers and students that attended East and/ or LPS at the time, to gather some insight into how the day played out. 

Mr. Jarnagin, a science teacher here at East, found out about the attack during first period when he was going to the copy machine.

He mentioned that his initial reaction was, “I thought it wasn’t real.”

As we continued our discussion, Mr. Jarnagin talked about how young and optimistic he was at the time. He notes that his being hopeful for the lives of those in the buildings didn’t transcend among older generations.

Jarnagin says, “In my mind, I thought it might be around a hundred people, I didn’t have any idea.” Then the assistant principal chimed in and said, “No Kris, it could be thousands if those buildings collapse.”

Coming from the perspective of a teacher and a father, Mr. Jarnagin felt a strong urge to protect his family and those he cared for. He didn’t know if what had happened that morning was the last of it, or if he would wake up the next morning to more tragic news. Jarnagin believes that this new innovative generation on young people brings a lot of hope for the future safety and security of this country.

Mrs. Mathews, a social studies teacher at East, was in 7th grade at Lux Middle School when she heard about the tragedy. She was sitting in math class when the principal came on the intercom and informed them that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  

Mrs. Mathews stated, “I think about being a teacher now and how I would have responded in that role. I think it’s honesty one of those days where you have to get through it hour by hour, minute by minute. You have to bring a sense of calm and safety because when something big like this happens adolescents are very vulnerable and you have to make sure that you are this calm, steady force to get through this pretty terrible day.”

She goes on to talk about the state of confusion everyone was in and why no one believed it was even real.

“There was a lot of confusion and that’s because we didn’t watch the news, and we didn’t know what was going on, and we didn’t have cell phones. And you know today news would spread like wildfire, and it still did back then but there was a lack of understanding.”

Mrs. Mathews’ personal experience is such an important addition to this 9/ 11 story and East community. This is because you get to see a students perspective during such a horrific event. Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine a teacher in such a vulnerable state but hearing her story helps us relate to her as a student and colleague. 

Mr. Davis, Assistant  Athletic/ Activities director at East, found out about 9/11 when he went to the English teacher center to get a cup of coffee. While he was there, his colleague Ms. Harder asked him if he knew that a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. He thought it was a small plane and had no idea it was a terrorist attack.

During this time, he coached competitive speech and debate as well as the forensics class. During his forensics period while his students were working on writing their speeches, he decided to turn on the news. 

“ We turned on the news about 30 seconds before the second plane hit the tower and we saw it live.”

Davis explains the reactions that the students had after seeing this live and added that students got very emotional and many cried. 

Mr. Davis knew he had to be strong for his class and East High on this tough day in American History. This experience helped him grow as a teacher  and as a United States citizen. Hearing his story on 9/11 also helps us grow closer to him by hearing his experience and perspective as what it was like to be a teacher during such a difficult time.

When talking about how 9/11 affected different people, perspective is everything. For example, whether it is a teacher that is responsible for kids, a father that feels responsible to protect his family, or a child that feels scared and confused, everyone had a different experience that day. Every single American that lived through that day has a slightly different story to tell, but all these stories bring us all closer together. These are just three, but we hope they provide you with more insight into how that day affected some in the East community.

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