Devine Staff Recall Their 9-11 Stories

Noah Davila, Co-Editor-In-Chief

On September 11, 2001, the United States suffered the deadliest terrorist attack in history. People across the country watched in fear as more attacks were witnessed and reported. For the past 20 years, people have recounted what they experienced while huddled around TV sets and computer monitors, unsure of what lay ahead. For the 20th commemoration of the attack, we gather teachers’ stories to understand better how they and the nation were affected.

“I was in my 3rd year of teaching 6th graders at Jourdanton Jr. High School,” Coach Heath Poppe said. ” I remember having my principal knocking on my door at 8 am and telling me to stop teaching and turn on the TV we had in our classrooms. Trying to explain what was going on to a bunch of 11 and 12-year-old kids was really tough to do, especially when you didn’t know all the answers.  The whole day was just so surreal.  I remember going home after football practice– which wasn’t very productive, considering the day we had as a nation, and going home and just feeling such remorse for all the Americans that dealt with the events on a personal level.  It was very disheartening.”

While most teachers watched the attacks from their classrooms while calming their worried students, some watched the news unravel at home.

“I remember I was fixing my daughter’s hair from where she cut it herself when the radio station cut away to the news,” English teacher Jana Dudley said. “They kept saying that one of the World Trade Center Towers had fallen, and my brain just couldn’t really comprehend what they meant. So I called my sister, and she told me to get to a TV. I was not near my house, so I went to Sam’s Club and stood in front of the big TVs with a bunch of other people and watched the coverage. I remember being so devastated and scared. I also remember how people came together, irrespective of race, gender, religion, etc. That was when I realized that we were not defeated.”

Some also had to deal with the stress of their loved ones being much closer to the scene.

“I was working at Devine Middle School,” Monica Taylor said. “We saw the damage from the first plane on the news and thought it was some freak accident. Within an hour, we saw (that) the next jet hit and realized our country was under attack.   It was frightening. My husband was deployed to New York that afternoon as a member of the Texas Rescue Team.  He and several other SA firefighters searched through the debris, looking for bodies for over a week.  As a parent, I tried to reassure my two children that everything was going to be ok, although I was worried about all of our safety. Later I learned that my childhood friend’s uncle was the pilot of United Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers fought the hijackers.  They heroically took the plane down to save others. I will never forget.”

While not everyone knew someone directly affected by the attack, many found themselves too close to the action for comfort.

“On 9-11, I was teaching at Clear Brook High School in the Space Center area of Houston.  First, I contacted my wife at an elementary school to make sure she was aware, but very soon everyone was,” band director Jeff Miller said. ” Fighter jets started blasting out of nearby Ellington Air Force field – literally one after another.  It was unsettling, to say the least.  I just know that for months – maybe years – I found myself always looking up when a plane was overhead.”

With 20 years since the attack, the kids who witnessed the tragedy can now share their stories as well.

“I remember that day perfectly,” Kailyn Rotramel said. “I was in 5th grade in Mrs.Brown’s class. We watched it on TV in the class and then they moved us to the gym. I remember because my dad had just retired from the Marine Corps. When all of this happened, the government started pulling back retired military, so we didn’t know if my dad would get called back. I remember going home and thinking this was the last time I would see my dad because he would be called back. My dad was one of the lucky ones that didn’t get called back because of his rank.”

Some older students also dealt with friends being called to service.

“I thought about joining the military, but I was too afraid,” science teacher Delilah Castillo said. “But I had a lot of friends that went straight in when that year was over or signed up for JROTC until they graduated. Not all of them would end up coming back. I have a lot of respect for everyone that joined because of that day.”