Spencer Finch’s tribute in the museum represents the colors of the sky Sept. 11. (Avery Cummings)
Spencer Finch’s tribute in the museum represents the colors of the sky Sept. 11.

Avery Cummings

Teachers recall 9/11

September 11, 2015

Fifteen years ago, 9/11 was just another day in the year. Fourteen years ago, 9/11 became the day that shattered our sense of security and forever changed our nation. Today, teachers who remember share their stories.

 

Brandon Farren, Choir Director – I was teaching at Tascosa at the time. It was early in the morning, and we were having a men’s sectional. About halfway through the sectional, a kid came in and said he was late because he had been watching a plane hit one of the Twin Towers in New York. We had just been to New York with the choir the year before, so we stopped the sectional. We turned on the TV, and we actually watched the second plane hit live as it happened. It was pretty shocking. Of course, no one knew at the time what was going on. We thought it was an air traffic accident until the second plane hit. After the first one hit, I just thought it was so tragic that a plane would hit a building. After the second one hit and we realized it was a terrorist attack, I think it was probably the maddest I’ve ever been in my life, knowing that someone would attack a non-military target in our own country.

All the wars we have fought have been away, and having one so close to home made me realize how precious this country is and how precious our freedoms are.”

— Brandon Farren, Choir Director

I was there with about 30 boys, and there was just so much tension in that room. I was more angry than anything else for the first few days until I really started seeing the devastation come out on the news. There were pictures of people jumping out of the buildings and people digging bodies out of the rubble, and the sadness came over me.

I have always loved this country and our rights. That’s part of my family and who we are. My father is a veteran, and I have always been very patriotic, but 9/11 made me appreciate our home defense more than anything else. All the wars we have fought in have been away, and having one so close to home made me realize how precious this country is and how precious our freedoms are. It made me realize how much I love this country, its people, and who we are as a nation.

 

 

Rebecca Polasek, Math Teacher–  On that day I remember waking up for school, and I always watched the morning news as I was getting ready. I saw it happen live on the news. Then, I headed out to school and I remember everyone coming in all in a haze and not really knowing what to do. We ended up going on with school and they tried to explain what they could with us but we sort of just spent the whole day just not knowing for sure what had happened, what we were gonna do about it. So, it was a lot of not knowing but everyone was impacted by it.

…did that really just happen? Did I really see that?”

— Rebecca Polasek, Math Teacher

I was mainly shocked and really didn’t know how to react because it’s hard to react to something that you haven’t experienced before. Not seeing that happen ever before in my life, I really didn’t know how to respond. It was like denial. You weren’t really sure … did that really just happen? Did I really see that? And I would say that was a lot of what we all were feeling in the school as well for classmates and teachers.

 

 

Traci Prather, ASL Teacher– I was counselor for the deaf and I remember walking out to go get a client. I got to work at 8 a.m. and I had a client scheduled for 9 a.m. I had started to walk down the hall to go get my client and one of the secretaries comes running down the hall and she says “One of the planes hit one of the World Trade Towers.”  We were just like “what?” They turned on the TV in the waiting room where my client was, and I started interpreting for him what was happening on the news. We went back to my office, and we were talking back and forth about what was happening. A little bit later we kept hearing words like the Pentagon and New York, and it just seemed to be like a domino effect. We just sat glued to the TV. My client just kept asking who, what and why and we didn’t have any answers. I canceled my appointment, and we just finished the session we were in because they were pretty shaken up.

My client just kept asking who, what and why and we didn’t have any answers.”

— Traci Prather, ASL Teacher

At that time I was married and he worked at Pantex, which was in lock down. That was very frightening because I couldn’t get ahold of him. Finally, when everything kind of settled down a little bit, we went to St. Ann’s here in Canyon. They had a mass and went because it was right up the street from where we lived.

 

 

Jamie Crosswhite, English Teacher– I was actually at school in Lubbock at Tech. I had an 8 o’clock theater class. I had about two hours in between and was just basically waiting for my next class. My mom called me, and I thought that was strange. She said, “What are you doing? Turn on the TV.” I told her I was about to take a nap but she told me that I needed to turn on the TV. I turned it on right before the second plane hit, so I saw it actually happen on television. At first, no one knew what to think. I was living in the dorms, so everybody kept their door propped open. Everyone was just sitting on their beds watching TV and not talking. I just remember silence and the same TV screen in every person’s room.

Everyone seemed together even though they didn’t know one another.”

— Jamie Crosswhite, English Teacher

Class was cancelled for three days. It was just strange to be away from home. Yet, everyone seemed together even though they didn’t know one another. Most people didn’t know each other because it was the beginning of the year. I remember waiting to hear President Bush speak. I never in my life cared to hear a President speak and I felt like I needed to hear him say something. It seemed like an eternity before he actually came on TV to make a public announcement.

 

 

 

Jacee Copeland, Chemistry Teacher– I was in the sixth grade, and I was at the orthodontist when I found out. I remember being so confused. They announced it over the radio that was playing and all that morning we just sat and watched the news in our classrooms. I took my history book home because we didn’t even know where those countries were, so we looked it up. They weren’t really relevant until then. They weren’t very known until then so we actually took it home and looked to figure out where they were on a map.

I took my history book home because we didn’t even know where those countries were.”

— Jacie Copeland

We watched it all morning and I just remember being super scared and a lot of parents pulled their kids out of school because no one knew what was happening. We were all scared because we had no idea what was happening or if it was going to happen again or if we were safe. 

We lived relatively close to Pantex so we didn’t know what would happen with that. There was just an uncertainty. 9/11 was the first time I had ever heard of a terrorist. I know students I teach now were so young that they don’t really remember it, but I remember it very vividly. I knew exactly what was happening. It is pretty relevant to me, and I imagine it will be my generation’s Pearl Harbor. I still think about it every year. It was the first time I realized how proud I should be to be an American and have American pride.

 

 

We felt like our kids were adults and had the right to know and watch as history unfolded.”

Gene Suttle, Canyon High Principal on 9-11-2001 I spent 9/11 at Canyon High School. I saw the planes on the office TV before school ever started. We had a live feed going in the library all day. Lot of debate about “letting the kids see” later that night from other places, but we felt like our kids were adults and had the right to know and watch as history unfolded.

It was very stressful trying to decide “what to do if…” But few left early, all remained calm, and we all went home safe.

 

 

 

It made me realize you don’t know how long you have to live on earth and to live your life to the fullest.”

— Jessica Ray, Math Teacher

Jessica Ray, Math Teacher– I was a sophomore in high school, and I was going to second period. My teacher showed us on the news. It was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe something like that could happen in America.

This summer I went to the 9/11 Memorial, and it just made me realize how many people were impacted by the events of that day. It made it seem more real. It made me realize you don’t know how long you have to live on earth and to live your life to the fullest.

 

 

 

Jeremy Chettinger, History Teacher– At the time I was living in California, and a relative from the Midwest called to ask if we were okay, if we knew what was going on, because California is delayed in time. It was still early, and I was still in bed. I woke up and looked on TV.  As I was watching TV, the second plane hit the world trade center. There was a kind of a shock to the whole situation. There was a kind of a patriotic unity with everybody in the country. It became obvious after it happened that it was a terrorist attack, and so everybody was kind of unified patriotically to do something about it.

It helped wake people up to what was going on in the rest of the world.”

— Jeremy Chettinger, History Teacher

It was a terrible thing that occurred. It did lead to some good things, as far as how we protect this country, and how we feel about the military, and it helped wake people up to what was going on in the rest of the world. So, as a world history teacher, I don’t think people really knew what was going on in the world, so we have more of a world focus now.

 

 

I had never seen people die in my life at that point.”

— Aaron Anderson, Chemistry Teacher

Aaron Anderson, Chemistry Teacher– I was in the eighth grade, and I was in my history class in Tulia. I remember the principal came over the announcements and told us to turn on our class televisions to the news channel, because we had been attacked. We watched the news the entire day. I remember seeing the second plane hit on live television. I think it hit everybody on a personal level when it happened. It brought the country down to its knees.

I was distraught and confused. I had never seen people die in my life at that point and it’s something you can never forget. It didn’t matter your race, your religion, your origin, your social standing, everybody came together and was there for those who were affected.

 

 

Joel Cochran, History teacher– I was driving to work. I was teaching in Bastrop down by Austin at that time, and I lived in Austin so it’s about a 45 minute drive to work. That’s when I heard a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Centers, and I thought it was just some small plane and it wasn’t a big deal.  I went in and had morning duty outside the cafeteria. I had to stand out there and someone came in and said a second plane crashed into the second one. That’s when you start to realize it’s a bigger deal than some little plane crash. I was standing outside there and students were coming in. Somebody came in and said somebody had crashed into the pentagon as well, so pretty much for the rest of that day we were just paying attention to the news and just in shock.

I remember driving back into Austin and hearing both Houses of Congress singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the capitol building.”

— Joel Cochran, Government Teacher

I was coaching soccer at the time in second period. We did a three mile run and came back to the news and found out both towers had fallen. Things like that kind of stick out in your mind that day. I went home and stayed glued to the news pretty much for the rest of the night. I remember driving back into Austin and hearing both Houses of Congress singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the capital building which I thought was pretty crazy.

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