Oak Ridge, United States

When Time Stood Still: 9/11 at Oak Ridge High School


Think about your regular everyday routine: wake up, groan about getting out of bed, finally GET out of bed, get ready for school, eat some breakfast, then get ready to take on yet another day. Do you have a math test? Are you going to a club meeting? Do you have basketball practice? All of these things are something a student wouldn’t think twice about… just another day. But what if, one day, a terrorist attack happened in your country instead? How would you react? Would your day be the same? When 9/11 occurred, many students and staff in schools across the country were in shock–even here at our very own school. My partner Deanna and I found two current teachers at Oak Ridge who were present at this time of 9/11, one being a teacher and one being a student; we asked them about their reactions of the attack and  this is what they had to say about the terrifying day, describing their thoughts and actions. 

Before we get into the experiences of those not present at 9/11, we’ll talk about what happened. Mostly everyone knows what happened during this attack, but if you don’t, then here is what happened: planes hijacked by terrorists flew straight into the Twin Towers in New York. Both fell, and many citizens were seriously injured and unfortunately even killed. Such a tragedy shocked many people, including those in our very own town, our very own school. (Google) First, we went to Mr. Hummel, a chemistry teacher at Oak Ridge. He has been teaching at the school for a very long time, being able to explain his experience during 9/11. We asked him about his experience with his students and anything else that he remembered, and this was his response:

How did you deal with your students at the time?

Mr. Hummel (Google)

Mr Hummel: “I came in, a lot of students and myself were still in shock and trying to absorb it because the attack was still ongoing. I didn’t know if I got got reception in a TV then and we did not have cell phones. But I do remember getting to school and writing September 11 on the board, and since the date was 9/11 everyone was like, ‘whaaaat.’ That is one thing that stuck out to me on that day. Some kids did not come to school. We were all unsure of what was going to happen next. It was a somber, sad day. I had students whose family members worked in the World Trade Center and the towers were still falling. I sent some kids down to the counseling office because kids were unsure. I had people that I knew who worked down in those areas, and just being 2500 miles away made it easier but nonetheless people still had family and friends who lived and worked in those areas. I will never forget, it was a few days after and it wasn’t published in the media, but that night, police officers and firefighters have a device that if you’re laying on your side for awhile it will go off to let them know, and many of the noises were going off because so many people were buried.”

It was very neat to hear from a teacher’s perspective, because it is hard to think of what yourself would have done in the situation when you have many students to care for.

Next, we went to find Ms. Higgins, a history teacher at Oak Ridge. During 9/11, Ms. Higgins was actually a student at Oak Ridge, and she was in Mr. Hummel’s class! Hearing from her student self makes it very real to us because we are all students right now, and we would probably react the same as her.

What was your reaction to 9/11 as a student at Oak Ridge?

TV Show,The West Wing (Google)

Ms. Higgins: “I do not remember him talking about 9/11, but I remember all of the students being like, ‘what’s going on?’ and whispering to ourselves. I do not remember a teacher sitting us down and walking us through it. I also had Mr. Campbell and Mrs. Brown, and they said that they got us all together a month later, and there was a show called The West Wing about 9/11 and we went into B-3 to watch and talk about it. I remember all of the flags that people had on  their trucks. I remember chatting with friends of mine who went to Granite Bay High School and we talked about what if we went to war and if the government would institute a draft, so we were scared and fearful that our boyfriends would have to go to war. We did not know what would happen and we were in fear. All we thought of was what if?

It is scary to think about a draft happening now because no one would ever think that it would come to that scenario, but no one knew that 9/11 would happen on the day that it did.

Listening to both Mr. Hummel and Ms. Higgins made it very real to us students that they were just like us–especially Ms. Higgins, since we are students now–just in a different time period. It makes us think, what would we have done and how would we have reacted in that situation, whether it had have been a teacher or student? How would we tell the class what just happened without making everyone worry? It is weird to think that teachers we know today were attending and teaching at Oak Ridge during 9/11 when we were just babies, and now we are going to school at Oak Ridge and learning about the stories of those who were present. We still honor all of those whose lives were lost on that horrific day, and even the ones who are still alive. 9/11 will never be forgotten,                      (Google)             especially when the story is passed on from generations of those who have lived through it to the youth of today.

Article by Kaitlyn Vannucci & Video by Deanna Frack

Works Cited

Higgins, K. (2017, December 12). Personal Interview

Hummel, S. (2017, December 12). Personal Interview

Pinterest, www.pinterest.com/pin/336714509611189117/.


“The West Wing.” NBC, www.nbc.com/the-west-wing?nbc=1.



One Comment

  1. This article is very well written. I like the idea of interviewing teachers to get their perspective on that day. We all were only little around this time so we do not really know exactly what it was like on that day. I think it would have been cool if you could have gone and went on to talk about the hunt to finding and killing osama bin laden. Overall I think this is a well written article.