Teachers recall 9/11 terrorist attacks on 20th anniversary

Teachers share personal anecdotes about what they were doing during the 9/11 attacks as well as how the day impacted them.


Photo by Breanne Dickerson

Happy moment…During a 9th grade trip to New York City in 1999, Indian Crest Junior High School freshmen Mike Capko and Christine Zischang take in the city as the Twin Towers stand tall in the background.

By sharing memories of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, Souderton Area High School teachers recall their experiences and how they have been affected 20 years later.
The morning of 9/11, ninth grade English teacher Sue Newlin said that she was picking up her son from preschool when she heard about the attack over the radio.
“In my mind, I thought it was a small plane, like a small passenger plane,” Newlin said.
Newlin said that once she and her husband arrived home, they spent the whole day watching the news.
“I watched the South Tower get hit, the Pentagon, and then the field in Shanksville, and I was absolutely mesmerized. I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Newlin said.
Social studies teacher Bre Dickerson was 16 at the time of the attacks and was in [social studies teacher Nicole] Harner’s history class at Souderton Area High School when the planes hit the twin towers.
According to Dickerson, everybody in her class assumed that when the first plane crashed it was an accident.
“I remember [Harner] turning on the TV and as soon as she turned it on, that’s when we saw the second plane crash into the tower,” Dickerson said.
As Dickerson watched the attacks happen over the news, she said that she was thinking about what she had previously learned about the Pearl Harbor attack.
“I remember being in complete shock that something so devastating had happened and that America had been attacked again,” Dickerson said.
At 8-years-old, social studies teacher Denise Meehl was attending school at West Broad Street Elementary during the time of the attacks.
Meehl said that she was in class when she heard about the attacks.
“We knew something had happened because people were freaking out, but because we were young nobody really wanted to tell us what was happening, so it was very disjointed,” Meehl said.
Each teacher had different reactions to the attack, whether it was an immediate reaction or a more long-term reaction.
According to Newlin, her immediate reaction was very emotional. “I remember going to bed at night and they would be playing messages that were left on answering machines from either people who were on the planes once they figured out what was going to happen or people who were trapped in the towers,” Newlin said.
According to Newlin, “they were all dead, but these were their last words calling loved ones, and it was just so horrible. I couldn’t sleep. Every day it was more of these messages and the posters. It was very emotional.”
Dickerson played on the tennis team at Souderton while she was in high school.
She said that she remembers that all sports practices and games were canceled for a few weeks after the attacks occurred.
“I remember going to my first tennis practice after we were allowed to start playing again and seeing an airplane fly over us in the sky and thinking, ‘Are we under attack again?’” Dickerson said.
According to Meehl, since she was young and was not told much about the attacks she took to learning by researching on her own. “We would watch documentaries, or talk about what was happening. For me it was more to gather as much information as I could,” Meehl said.
Newlin said there was a sense of unity in the country and everyone seemed to be “on the same page” after the attack.
Dickerson said she noticed changes in how people traveled. “As a little kid I was invited up into the cockpit to see the pilot and the co-pilot and they would show us different buttons and things inside where they fly the airplanes,” Dickerson said. “In new generations, that would never happen. That, within itself, is a huge change.”