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07 August 2011

The Morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Pre-8:45 a.m.

By Kevin Canessa Jr.

(Continued from the other day)
Part II

I didn't expect to remember much about the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, but because of the enormity of the day, almost every step I took that day I can recall. I woke up at about 6 a.m., and my grandma, with whom I was still living, asked me what -- if anything -- I needed pressed off. I gave her my favourite pair of khaki corduroy pants, a short-sleeved orange, summery shirt, and she pressed them off as though they were done by professional cleaners.

When I left the house -- 37 Ivy St., Kearny, N.J. -- I remember looking to the sky to watch a FedEx plane that was taking off, and then marveling at the cloudless sky. Remember that? It was a perfect day. Absolutely perfect day. 

As I did most days, I made my stop at Sunset Deli on Kearny Avenue, and got my usual cup of coffee -- cream and one sugar -- and a buttered roll. Rarely did I break the routine.

"Have a good day, Kev," the owner, Joe Petito said as I left.

I got into the car, began driving toward Jersey City -- and for one reason or another, I took a different route than I normally did. I went via Montgomery Street, a four-lane road that ran east-west in both directions. What was wonderful about this way of going was that once you reached Baldwin Avenue, the street was anchored by an optical illusion -- the World Trade Center's two towers.

It was such a beautiful sight -- one I often took for granted. But I remember seeing the sun shining on the two towers. And as I got closer, you could see the reflection of the two towers, including in the waters of the Hudson River.

I got to school -- excited -- because for me, it was the first full day of classes. After homeroom, I was in Room 101 for the first period. Senior religion seminar. 

One of the seniors, Pedro Rodriguez, helped me pass out the syllabus for the year -- the expectations, grading policies, curriculum, etc. When he was done, Pedro gave me the extra copies, I put them into my folder -- and suddenly, there was a massive boom sound. 

Our supposition was that it was a tractor-trailer overturning near the Holland Tunnel, which was two blocks away. So we thought nothing of it. 

I grabbed a student desk, sat down on its top to begin reviewing the syllabus with the kids -- when out of nowhere, in comes C.J. Flaherty, my colleague who was having a class outside in one of the school's trailers (there just wasn't enough room in the school proper to house all classes).

"Dude, the World Trade Center just exploded. It's on fire," C.J. tells me.

"Bro, don't fuck around like that. That's not even funny to say," I responded. 

"No! I'm not kidding. Go outside and look for yourself."

C.J. sat with my class while I went outside. I exited the Eighth-Street doors, walked about 15 steps, and looked out at the North Tower, which had gaping holes on all sides I could see. C.J. wasn't kidding at all. It was on fire, and we had absolutely no idea how it happened.

As I started to walk back to the school, I realized that I must have run so quickly that I was barefoot. I lost both of my shoes. I gathered my shoes, put them back on, went back to the building, and C.J. went back to his class.

In my classroom, I ordered the kids to put the syllabus away -- and we immediately said a prayer. At that very moment -- not even knowing what was to come -- we all knew there would be a lot of carnage. Prayer was about the only thing we could do at that moment. 

It was, perhaps, the most helpless feeling I could ever recall.

After the prayer, we put on the TV. Each classroom had one since we used Channel 1 News for the kids. The only over-the-air channel NOT knocked off the air immediately was WCBS Channel 2. The silence, especially on the first day of classes, where there's usually a lot of excitement, was deafening. The kids and I were glued to the television, and all we could ask each other is "What on earth happened?"

As a few moments passed, we saw what appeared to be a chopper flying toward the South Tower. And with that, a huge explosion and fireball ensued. 

Then, the TV went blank.

We knew, then, we were under attack.

It was only a few minutes past 9 a.m. And we were just beginning the first period of the day, of the quarter, of the semester and of the academic year.

Yet we still had no idea what was to follow.

To be continued...


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