The following is a written testimony of my personal account of the 9/11 attacks 12 years ago. This testimony was originally written in the Fall of 2011, prior to the 10th anniversary of the attacks, and was delivered on my behalf to the students of the Robert Saligman Middle School in Elkins Park, PA by my friend Joshua Mellits on that day. On this, the 12th anniversary of that fateful day, I have decided to share this testimony with the greater community. May the memories of those who perished in the September 11th attacks always be for a blessing.
Dear current students of Saligman Middle School,
I want to explain before I tell you my story that I have never written this down before. Although I have told this story hundreds of time, I have never been able to bring myself to actually write it down. To be honest, this story is not simply my own, but the collective story of my class’ experience, the class of 2003, on the morning of September 11, 2001. I will be honest with you before I start, there is no happy ending to this story.
It was the second or third week of school, when our class was set to go to the Tevah program up in Connecticut. I remember I was really excited, because I loved the outdoors and I was looking forward to a great time during the program, having done it before with my class in 6th grade the year before. It was getting cooler out as Fall was setting in and summer was pretty much over. We boarded the buses at school really early that morning, I think around 6 or maybe 7AM.
Everyone was pretty fired up on the buses, I don’t remember many kids sleeping, people were talking and hanging out. I had my red CD player that was also an AM/FM radio (for those of you who do not know what that is, it’s a portable device that uses old technology to listen to music…) this was before the age of iPods and iPhones. I sat in my seat on the right side of the bus looking out the window as the highway passed by.
As we got closer to New York City our bus slowed down and pretty much stopped. There was a lot of traffic. I noticed thick smoke in the sky. At first, I thought it was a power plant like I had seen around Philadelphia, ones that always have smoke around them. But this smoke was different. It was very black, black like the night. I also remember seeing the teachers in the front of the bus talking loudly and looking a little scared. A lot of the kids on my bus also noticed the smoke, but many of them were still talking to their friends and not really paying attention. Not me. I turned to my best friend Josh Mellits and told him I thought something was wrong. That smoke wasn’t normal. I switched to my radio and listened to a station I found. I couldn’t make out everything they were saying but I heard something about a plane hitting the Twin Towers. Something about a “low flying plane.”
As I listened I kept looking out the window. You could see downtown New York at this point. I saw that one of the towers was on fire, and there was more and more black smoke. Then I looked to the right. I saw another plane. It was also flying low and it was flying by fast. I watched the plane moving toward the Twin Towers. Then I watched the plane disappear, followed by what looked like a fireball and more smoke. Our bus stayed where it was up until the moment the two towers came crashing down. The rest is history.
On September 11, 2001 I witnessed the second plane crash into the twin towers, then I saw those towers disappear from the New York City skyline in front of my eyes. I witnessed as over 3000 innocent people were killed that day. I, a young 7th grader, who had lived his entire life in a safe and loving community, was exposed to the most terrible evil that exists in this world. Like I said in the beginning, there is no happy ending to this story, but there is an important lesson. When our bus finally pulled off the highway and stopped at a truck stop, Mr. Leberman, our headmaster, who was on our trip with us, gathered everyone on a single bus. We sat in silence while he spoke. He didn’t hide the truth, and he didn’t try and explain what happened that day. For there was no explanation. We all bared witness to the tragic events of that day. One of the things Mr. Leberman said to us was that, “today we saw that there is evil in the world and there are evil people; the world will be very different from now on…things have changed. It is your responsibility to go out into the world and make it a better place.” I have carried that message with me since that fateful Tuesday morning in September of 2001. I, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, who every year says “never again” about the genocide of our people, the Jewish people, vowed on that day, that I would do everything in my power to prevent another innocent child from ever having to witness something like September 11th again.
Eric J. Schorr
Saligman Middle School, Class of 2003