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LOHS Staff Remembers 9/11

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Today, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, evokes strong emotions for anyone who remembers this tragic day.  Below are some of the memories shared by LOHS staff members.

Kevin Kopec, Social Studies Teacher:  I was doing my student teaching at Kalamazoo Central High School.  It was about a week and a half into the school year.  My mentor teacher had called in sick so I was in charge of the classes on my own for the first time.  Between 1st and 2nd hour a student informed me about a plane hitting the WTC.  Around 9:15 a.m. the principal came over the PA system and informed the building about the attack and asked us to turn the TV’s in our room on and watch the coverage until instructed otherwise.  I will never, ever, forget the pure silence in the classroom when we watched the North and South towers collapse.  The shock and sadness was unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Michael Steele, Band Teacher:  I was teaching here at LOHS.  We were just finishing first period band when the first plane hit.  There was an announcement made telling us that a plane had flown into the WTC, thinking that the pilot had been blinded by the glare in the morning.  We were told to turn on our TVs in the classrooms.  After that first class ended, on our prep period, Deb Fristad (choir director) and I watched the news events on the TV in the band room.  We saw the second plane hit the tower live.  Immediately, we were told that all TVs in rooms where students were had to be turned off, but we had no students at that time so we were allowed to continue watching.  We watched through and past the time that the towers fell, watching all of the news broadcasting until time to move on to our next class.  Once finding out that other planes had been affected in PA and DC, I called to find out if my father was okay as he was flying on that day.  I also called to ensure that my Chaldean sister-in-law was okay as I feared retribution against anyone looking middle-Eastern.  All after school and evening events were canceled by the district before the end of school.  My event was a parent meeting to discuss our band trip for that year that was to New York.  On my way home from school, I saw the gas stations who were charging $5-$10 per gallon of gas.

Lucy Logsdon, Math Teacher:  I was starting my 3rd year of teaching here at LOHS and in SEMINAR! with a class full of seniors. There was an announcement to turn on our TVs and we watched the second plane fly into the World Trade Center. Then came an announcement to turn off the TVs. My seniors wouldn’t let me…they understood the gravity of the situation right away. The rest of the day was spent being distracted in class trying to learn more information (before cell phones!).

James Haugh, English/Language Arts Teacher:  I was teaching 8th grade English in Southfield and we were a few days into the reading of The Diary of Anne Frank play.  Our principal came on the PA and announced that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. The kids were confused about why class was interrupted for this seemingly irrelevant news. Some teachers turned on their classroom TV's; I did not. As the day went on, and the towers fell, students began to be picked up from school. The last class of the day had only 6 kids present.

Melissa McSweeney, Science Teacher:  I was student teaching at Heritage Junior High School in Utica.  Another teacher and I were on hall duty during passing time, when the assistant principal came to us and said, "we believe there has been a coordinated terrorist attack on New York and Washington DC."  We both looked at each other in disbelief.  At the same time my cooperating teacher came through the back door of the classroom and told me he would take over the class and I should go to the teacher's lounge.  By that time, the second plane had already struck the building.  We stood and watched as the first tower collapsed. 

Randy Morgan, Science Teacher:  I was cooking at restaurant (working) when a waitress entered the kitchen and announced "America is under attack." Details slowly came in throughout the day (not all accurate) and I left work confused and anxious. Upon arriving home I turned on the news and was shocked at what I was watching. We will never forget this tragic day. 

David Whitaker, Physical Education Teacher: I was teaching home room in the LOHS gym, then called “Focus Groups,” when Social Studies Teacher Chad Swett came up to me and whispered “I think our country is under attack” I went to the Commons TVs to see the second tower go down and immediately called my wife and first born via land line… I’ll never forget it!

Stacy Keywell, World Languages Teacher: I was teaching here at LOHS and our televisions were on to watch a scheduled announcement. The news was playing in the background, and I saw the plane hit a tower. At first, I said, "Now who would be that dumb to fly so close to a building?" I was unaware of what was really happening, and my brain could not comprehend it. Later we found out it was an attack and we had to turn off all live news feeds. The students were visibly rattled and several returned home to their families. I spent the remainder of the day helping the kids through a very tough emotional rollercoaster. It was very difficult, but I had to remain strong for those who needed me the most at that moment.

Donald McLaughlin, Social Studies Teacher: I was teaching in California.  Due to the time change I woke up shortly after the second tower was hit and my mother in law called.  The towers fell on my way to school. I spent the day watching coverage with my students discussing tolerance, and thinking of friends and former students I had in New York City.  I did not have a cell phone nor social media so I sent emails and waited to hear back. I had spent a few days in the city a month or two before hand, it was all very fresh in my mind.

Andrew Schramek, Social Studies Teacher: I was teaching in the Fishbowl in the 250 wing. Went on PREP and turned the Today show an and saw the Second Tower hit. After a while they both fell to the ground. Coincidently, I was teaching a lesson on Terrorism in World Studies. Chelsea Hanning, our trainer, was in the class as a freshman. Ion 9/10/01 a student in the class asked me if there would ever be another Terror attack in America. I told him, “No, because our National Defense has gotten so much better.”

Andrea Rutledge, Special Education Teacher: It was my first year teaching and I was in a middle school self-contained EI classroom up in Bay City.   The PE teacher ran into my room and said to turn the TV on because something was happening in New York. I did, and something was definitely happening. It was horrifying and I quickly realized this wasn’t something we should be watching with students. I turned off the TV just as more staff started running around the building yelling for everyone to turn OFF the TVs. I remember not knowing what to say to the students when they had a million questions. I remember sitting on my couch that evening in shock and my mom calling me from 5 hours away feeling extremely worried and helpless.  My friends were on a plane to Hawaii for their honeymoon and they had to turn around and come home. I also remember being nervous that I lived so close to Dow Chemical because there were people saying that was on a target list. It was all so confusing, scary and devastating.  I’ll definitely never forget.

Holly Kokotovich, World Languages Teacher: I was sitting in my communications class, waiting for it to start in the largest lecture hall on campus at MSU, and my professors came running in. They were normally very calm, positive and light hearted people, and they yelled at all of us to listen and told us what happened. I remember they said, "Most of your parents probably have told you that they remember exactly where they were when Kennedy was shot, and you're going to remember this for the rest of your lives". They also said that they understood if any of us needed to leave, but that they decided they wanted to hold a shortened class period, as a way to not give in to the chaos and panic that whoever attacked us was hoping to create, and only a small handful of people left. 

Michelle Cureton, Social Studies Teacher: I was in college at Wayne State University in my Ancient World History class. Some students were whispering about it being the end of the world and it affected our communication networks. The Wayne State campus was suddenly flooded with police officers and my Professor said that we needed to leave campus immediately and go some place safe because it was believed that America, at that moment, was under attack. It was a very scary, surreal moment. 

Julie Barnes, Career/Technical Education Teacher: It was just days after my husband (Carl Barnes, LOHS SafeEd) and I returned from our honeymoon. I had just started a new job and was on my 2nd day there. I was meeting with my manager when we heard the news about the first plane hitting. There were 5 or 6 of us that crammed in her office to watch a very small tv when the 2nd plane hit. I can remember the shock and sadness on everyone's face - not knowing what to think or do or say. Almost instantly we all left her office to go back to our desks to call our family members to check on/talk with them. We regrouped back in the office shortly after and just sat together and watched the news for hours. Time seemed to just stand still...

Stacy Feeney, Art Teacher:  I was in high school sitting in my German 2 class, sophomore year, when we heard that a plane had hit one of the towers in New York. We spent the remainder of the day at school, watching the live coverage of what was happening in each of our classes. All lessons were cancelled. 

Kyle Meteyer, Associate Principal:  My U-M geology professor was late to my 8:30 AM class.  Students were whispering about a plane hitting (accidentally?) a building in New York; the prof then arrived and told us that class was cancelled due to a national emergency.  On my walk back to my dorm, there were many students outside, trying to call relatives on the East Coast.  I watched the rest of the attacks unfold on TV with my two international roommates from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Roger Smith, Video Broadcasting Teacher: It my first fall at LOHS and my only year as a fulltime math teacher.  We were made aware of the attacks during our "Seminar" period (like a Homeroom); my class was in the Kiva with 2 other groups.  There was a PA announcement to turn on our TVs to any news station, so we did, just as the second plane hit.  We were really confused as to whether it was live or a replay.  As we realized it was a terrorist attack, and after we saw the first tower fall, we were told to turn TVs off again and to try to carry on with the rest of the school day as best as we could.  I remember constantly checking the web for updates throughout the day; it was all anyone could do, trying to get bits of information.  I scrapped my plans for the rest of the day, and my classes just sat and wrote about what was happening, sort of a time capsule of that moment.  Those students lived through it with us, and I often wonder where they are and what they remember about that day at LOHS.  And it's a really odd feeling now, nearly 2 decades later, because September 11th has gone from being a moment we could talk about with students, in terms of similar experiences. Yet now it's history, and the current students can only learn about it from our textbooks and stories and TV clips, because the current students were only a twinkle in their parents' eyes when it happened.

Kathryn Chamberlain, Special Education Teacher: I was on a field trip to Camp Tamarack with my 4th and 5th grade class.  The one cell phone that we carried from school was used to contact us.  Parents were worried and actually drove out to pick up their kids from the camp.  Since we did not have access to the news at the camp, I really did not know the extent until I returned to school.

Roslyn Helberg, Social Studies Teacher: I was teaching at Webber Elementary School and the principal sent an email informing us that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Centers in NYC.  We were instructed not to send kids out for recess - - no one could figure out what the connection between NYC and our playground was! Parents started pulling kids out of class .... only when I went to the staff lounge at lunchtime did I see the news broadcast of what was going on.

Chelsea Hanning, Certified Athletic Trainer:   I was sitting in our very own LOHS ceramics room when I found out what happened that day.  Mr. Needham was my teacher, and he had turned on the TV. Not long after that there was an announcement that we were to be let out of school early. 

Erik Meerschaert, Special Education Teacher: I was just leaving first hour, walking through the cafeteria at Troy Athens High School.  As I walked to my locker, the TV's in the cafeteria were showing the World Trade Center smoking.  As I continued, the hallway was abuzz with chatter of an attack.  I proceeded to my 2nd hour Algebra class, where we had a substitute teacher for the day.  We pleaded for her to allow us to keep on the news during class to no avail.  While sitting at my desk, I could see through a window connecting two of the classrooms. I could just make out the news on the television in the classroom next door.  It was through that window, that I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. 

Bill Van Wagoner, DM Burr Maintenance:  I was painting an interior of a house when I heard the announcement on the radio.  I went upstairs and watched it all unfold on TV. 

Scott Boeneman, English/Language Arts Teacher:  I was at the Student Center at Eastern Michigan University having a quick meal and study break between classes while finishing my teaching degree. I saw a large group of students and faculty huddled around a mounted TV, which caught my interest. When I heard gasps and saw their blank expressions, I went over to see what they were watching. It was then that I saw the towers fall. It is a moment I will never forget.

Melissa Wilson, Art Teacher: I was teaching something called seminar at LO. My best friend was in one of the World Trade Center towers, so it was a tough day. Thankfully she and everyone in her company made it out safe, but phone lines where not working. She sent me a post card and I got it 3 days later letting me know she was safe.

Tara Hall, Paraeducator:  I remember I was in College and completing my student placement at a near to my home Toronto elementary school...I went home for early lunch and my mom had the news on. She was upset and I didn’t understand why. She told me two planes had crashed into the twin towers! I remember thinking, why would planes be flying so close to a building? It just didn’t make any sense to me, my mind never went to “an intentional attack” on America! Even though the crash didn’t happen on my homelands’ soil, we Canadians all felt the loss and devastation and proceeded to help where we could, if we could. That day shaped the minds and lives of so many! I will never forget. 

Lindsay Finkbeiner, English/Language Arts Teacher: I was in 10th grade and sitting in Spanish class when the first plane hit. I remember my teacher, Mr. Machesney, put on the news, but I don't think any of the students really understood what was happening at the time... Our teachers didn't actually talk about it the day it happened, but I remember my tennis match was canceled, so I was home early, and it was when I was watching the news with my mom that I really understood what had happened.

Kevin Crowther, Math Teacher: I was working on an assignment that was due for an 8pm math education class that night. I happened to get on the internet to look something up and saw on my yahoo home page a picture of a plane crashing into a building. Reading the headline, I was shocked it said something like "Passenger Plane Crashes into One of Twin Towers".  I went to the living room and turned on the television just in time to see the second plane crash into the other building of the Trade Center. I watched alone with tears running down my cheeks, trying to reconcile what was happening.

Alex Martel, Math Teacher: I was walking through my elementary school with my first-grade class, and I can remember seeing the burning buildings on a TV that some teachers were huddled around.  The next thing I can remember is getting on a bus to go home early, where my parents were glued to the TV.

Karen Wampuszyc, Science Teacher: I was standing in the room I teach in right now with my Human anatomy class. We heard that something was happening and we turned on the news to watch. As we watched the second plane hit the towers. One student whispered "Was that a replay?" I had to tell him no. One girl in my class had a dad in the banking industry that had flown to NY that morning. She was freaking out, I couldn't call out as the phone lines were jammed. This was in the time when fewer people had cell phones (I didn't). One other girl in my class had a cell and let the first girl call her mom. Her mom told her the dad was OK. I went home and hugged my family really hard.

Jennifer Ries, Math Teacher: I was student teaching in Kalamazoo. Another teacher come into the room and told my mentor teacher and I about it and we turned on the TV (as did much of the rest of the school). Everyone spent the rest of the school day focused on that.

Gretchen Hynes, Assistant Principal: I was on layoff from my sales/recruiting job…sitting home scouring the job boards and watching the news after dropping my son, Shane, off at Kindergarten – needed a break so turned I headed to the tanning salon. When I walked in I saw the staff huddled around the tv – we watched in horror the replay of the first plane and watched live the 2nd plane. I never tanned, headed home in disbelief, called Shane’s school to check on him/them.

Nick Schultz, Math Teacher: I was on my way to Strength and Conditioning class at Michigan Tech.  On my way up, other students asked me “Did you hear what happened?”  I said no, and they start to explain the whole thing.  I did not believe them at first, so I asked another student to be sure.  When I was in class, no one was really lifting and they were just staring at the television screens.  I saw the second tower getting hit during that class. 

Rhonda Oldford, Math Teacher: I was living in Rapid City, South Dakota on Ellsworth Air Force Base because my husband was a navigator in a B-1.  I was at home with my infant daughter.  My husband called from work to tell me to turn on the TV there was a plane crash.  His flight for that day got cancelled.  He heard rumors that something big was happening.  I sat in front of the TV all day watching the trauma wondering what it would be like if I had been at school teaching.

Rosa Everitt, Career/Technical Education and Career Center Coordinator: I was working as an Engineering apprentice for an aerospace company at the time. At 6am that morning, my cousin from Italy called me to tell me that our family coming into the US had not yet departed from their stop in Amsterdam; there were issues.  Nearly three hours later, I was standing in Programming with four other programmers, when the announcement came over 89X radio that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.  The woman reporting from New York was describing the chaos in the streets.  We listened intently, when suddenly, there was panic in her voice as she described the second plane flying towards and then hitting the Trade Center.  We watched the news for most of the day.  4 I called my cousin in Italy to find out anything I could, but the phone lines were busy.  Fear struck, my family and I watched news channel after news channel to ensure my family’s flight was safe; they were.
But, I will never forget the eerie feeling I had that day leaving work.  It was as if you could feel the empty sky, knowing that all flights had been grounded.

April Dobbs, Math Teacher: I was home on maternity leave with my daughter. At the time when the first plane hit the tower, I was talking with my friend on the phone who was also on maternity leave. While we were on the phone, her husband texted her that she should turn on the TV, he said, “I think we are being attacked.” It was one of the scariest days of my life.

Melissa Middleton, Media Specialist: On September 11, 2001, I was the media specialist at Waldon Middle School.  After the initial shock and horror, we were trying to maintain calm in the building.  Teachers were asked to keep students in the classroom and keep going as though nothing had happened.  Therefore, the classes scheduled to come to the media center that day did not.  At some point in the morning, I’m not sure when, I was called to come to the office.  There, I saw one of my teaching colleagues in tears leaving the with her belongings.  I learned that her father was in one of the towers and they did not know if he had survived.  I then had to teach her classes for the remainder of the day.  That was incredibly difficult as I found it hard not to let my mind wander to what my friend and colleague was going through.  We did learn before the day was out that her father had survived. 

Beth DiFranco, SafeEd:  The morning of 9/11, I just dropped off my kids at school and went to Jax Car Wash.  As I approached the check out counter, people were gathered around a small TV on the counter.  The first tower had been hit.  We didn't think of a terrorist attack at that point, until we saw the second plane hit the other tower.  After that, someone shouted, "Terrorists".  We were shocked watching this unfold live!  I panicked and drove my car back to the elementary school to see if we should pick-up our kids.  I waited in the parking lot with other parents. That's all I remember at that moment.  During this time, our house was under construction.  After the terrorists were identified, I found their faces in a newspaper (posted by my painters) hanging in my master bedroom closet .  I ripped it down. 

Christina Hammitt, Guest Teacher:  

After spending this day watching the news reports with my high school seniors answering their questions and calming their fears, I was driving home since my Master’s class at Wayne was cancelled.  Seeing cars lined up around a gas station I felt the urge to call my dad.

“Dad, do I need gas?” I asked wary of his response since communication was never our strong suit.

Calmly and without question he replied, “I don’t know.”

“What’s going on in the world?” I said to him as he was living in Texas at the time.

“I don’t know,” he said. “But you are smart, you’ll figure this out.”

Three months later my dad died. This was our first  and last real father-daughter dialogue.

September 11th will always be a day to remember birthdays, anniversaries. Loves lived and lost on the day the world stopped turning.

Nineteen years of remembrance; some recall where they were and who they lost. For me, it will always be  the day that when the world didn't make any sense I turned to my Father and he did.


Russ Stowers, Science Teacher: 

In 2001 Lake Orion hired a former student as a teacher - but he changed his mind and quit after 2 weeks.  I was hired to replace him, making Sept. 10 my first day, and there was a fire drill each hour that day.  I was traveling between rooms and had no idea where to go for fire drills, so I just followed students.

The next day I was on 2nd period conference in 700B, when I looked across the hall at the TV in 703 and saw smoke billowing from the Twin Towers.  I recall announcements and emails to turn all TVs off when people started jumping/falling from the burning buildings. What an eventful first two days.