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06 August 2011

Sept. 7, 2001: A Precursor of What Was to Come

By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Republished 4 September 2013 
In anticipation of the 12th anniversary
of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks

September 2001 was probably going to be one of the best months of my life.  I was in my fourth year as a teacher at St. Anthony's, and we had just said goodbye to one of the greatest classes to ever go through the halls of the school (Class of 2001) and I was finally going to be able to work with another of the greatest classes in the school's history (Class of 2002). 

I started with the Class of 2002 back in 1998 -- knew them all very well and got along with them all notoriously well -- yet had never taught them. Finally, in September 2001, I'd get to teach the entire class. All for religion and some in my pre-law class. (My favourite class to teach was always pre-law).

Before the first day of classes -- in the first week of September -- we had a series of faculty meetings as we did every other year. But there was a difference this time. A veteran teacher, who had been at the school many years and who left, was coming back to the school. He was and is a legend, a model teacher who taught me so much about being a better teacher over the years. Before 2001, he was Brother Ray. Now, he was just Ray, having left the Marist Brothers order just some time before coming back to St. Anthony's.

He was, as they say, a "Master Teacher," and as such, was leading workshops. On Friday, Sept. 7, 2001, he asked the entire faculty what our biggest peeve was about working at St. Anthony's. I immediately knew my answer.

The Jersey City Fire Department's
 Haz-Mat HQ. St. Anthony's is directly
behind this building on 8th Street.
"The damn firetrucks," I blurted out, out of turn. 

You see, the adjacent property to the St. Anthony's building is the Jersey City Fire Department's largest station -- and home to the Haz-Mat unit. They were always going on calls -- and the screams of the sirens were constant. And as someone who had un-diagnosed ADD, those sirens always threw me off, especially when I was in the middle of a good lecture or a heated discussion.

I didn't realize it at the time, but it would be those very sirens, that very sound that irked me to no end, that would in just a few days become the signature sound of the year 2001. Little did I know that Friday morning, as I drove to Jersey City, and stared at the beautiful Twin Towers, that in just four days, they'd be gone forever.

Little did we know our world would soon be forever changed, our lives thrown upside down.

Sept. 11, 2001 was just four days away, and it was the first day in my life -- the only day in my life -- when I thought I wasn't going home.

I thought I was going to die.

To be continued...


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