Toran:We all heard this boom, and everyone rushed to the window.
Ethan: They announced on the intercom, “We’re evacuating the building. All teachers bring your students downstairs immediately.”
Gloriela: I remember we had two hamsters in the classroom, and I took one of them and was like, “It’s gonna be okay.”
Roberto: My mom picked me up quickly, but when she was telling me about it when I was a little older she said, “Oh, I couldn’t get you as quickly as I wanted to because we weren’t sure if people were coming out of the plane or what was going on.” So that kind of freaked me out thinking that I could have been just trapped in the school.
Luca: My mom came and picked me up after the first plane hit, and I saw the other plane go right above me and hit the other building. I remember seeing people jumping from the windows—I remember that. And I asked my mom, “Oh, do they have a trampoline at the bottom?” She was like, “No.” I’m like, “Then why are they jumping?” She’s like, “I don’t know.” And then we started to run away.
Ethan: We ran the whole way until we hit P.S. 3 in the Village. They brought us into the gym and gave us some paper and crayons to color with just to calm us down.
Aviya: When we got home, me and my brother watched the news. I think it was the first time I ever watched the news.
Gloriela: Yeah, I remember seeing the news as well. Even though I saw it myself firsthand, I saw the whole tragedy through everybody else’s eyes.
Ella: My parents decided not to tell me what happened. They wouldn’t let me watch TV.
Brook, who has created a documentary, The Second Day, about his experience: Well, I was not sheltered at all. Basically, as soon as it happened, my mom was able to pick me up quickly, and she brought me about a block and a half away from the Towers and put me in a fire truck—she worked with the FDNY. She went off to run messages because the Handie-Talkies weren’t working ’cause they were so overloaded. While I was in the truck, firemen were telling me messages to give to their children and their wives and everything, like, “Tell my kid I love him,” “Tell my wife I love her.” One fireman said to me, “Grow up and be a good man.” By the time the Towers started to fall, my mom came back, grabbed me off the truck, and we started running up Greenwich Street. She was holding me so that my head was over her shoulder, and I was watching the Tower fall and people jumping off the buildings holding each other’s hands. We ran north all the way to Canal Street and then that’s where she put me down and started to cry.
Adelaide: I didn’t actually remember this, but my mom told me a couple of years ago that I kept drawing the Twin Towers falling and the plane and everything, and she said it really freaked her out.
Ethan: I think I was doing that too, actually.
Toran:I had this phase where I would point to buildings and ask if people would fall out of those. After 9/11 my mom would have me pray every night, and she told me that one of the things I said was that I hoped that all of the terrorists would turn into babies so that they couldn’t hurt anyone.
Adelaide: I didn’t know that it was a terrorist thing until like five years ago.
Malik: Yeah, we didn’t know about terrorists.
Zachary: It just taught me something that I would have learned later in life, that bad things can happen.
Adelaide: If I’m just sitting in class and I’m bored, I’ll think, What would happen if a plane just crashed into the side of the building right now? What would everyone do?
Ben: I think my parents kind of hope I don’t remember at all, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Ethan: I don’t want to forget it.
Adelaide: We’re part of history.
Ethan: Yeah, we are.
From the archives
• Facing Their Fears (New York Magazine, October 29, 2001)
• The Kids They Left Behind (New York Magazine, October 29, 2001)