9/11: 20 Years Later

Allie Frazer and Cole Belling

It’s been 20 years since the most devastating disaster to hit New York City. It crumbled buildings and took the lives of many of Wantagh’s loved ones. 

The teachers at Wantagh High School have stories to share of that day.

Mr. Simonis, one of our school security guards, had one of the most-up close experiences.  Simonis said, “I was employed at the Bank of New York… which is basically across the street from One World Trade Center.” 

Mr. Simonis recalls watching the second plane hit the World Trade Center. He said,“It just shook the building to the core.” It was only then that they realized that they had to evacuate their building. 

Once outside, prior to the buildings’ collapse, Simonis saw “people on the ground, hurt from debris, and—one of the worst things— people were burnt by the jet fuel on the ground. Everybody kind of started running and we made our way [sic] from the area, but, you know, as you looked back at it, as things got worse, people were—what we thought were people throwing furniture out of the buildings to try to get attention, but as you watched it, as it came down, you could tell it was people jumping out of the building, because that’s just how dire the situation was for them. They would jump from 100 stories up because it was just so hot and burning. It was a horrible sight.”

Mr. Simonis said that if there is anything to take away from reading about his experience, it is, “You shouldn’t take the drills and stuff that we do for granted. I know that a lot of times they seem robotic, but, especially for me, I know the fire drills seem easy…But the lockdown drills I think are important because if something like that really happens even a little bit of training goes a long way in your survival, or how you react to a situation.” 

Mrs. Carr’s husband worked in the World Trade Center. She remembers her reaction to the attacks: it was her third day of work in the Wantagh School District. She said, My knees buckled like I’d been grabbed from behind. I grabbed a table to stay up.” 

The immediate impact of the attacks could be seen all around. Driving out of work on the Southern State, Mrs. Carr remembers seeing “cars racing down the median” under a “black cloud in the distance.” Fortunately, her husband survived, but she’ll never forget that day. She said,“Two words are really important: ‘never forget.’ It’s important that people know what the date’s all about.” 

She further said, “Those names we never forget. I had some of these students who were babies at the time. It’s everywhere. The monuments and the ceremonies. It’s a very solemn, somber day, as it should be.” 

Dr. Guzzone, the high school’s principal, echoed Mrs. Carr, “It’s important that we don’t forget their names and that we honor them.”

Ms. Flynn, the moderator of the school’s newspaper, shares her perspective as a student. She said,“I was in seventh grade at the time, and I attended a Catholic school. I remember, around 9 o’clock or so, the teachers were all stepping out of the classroom. After that, all the shades were pulled down… and we weren’t told anything until we went home.” 

Upon returning home, “the news, of course, was on —it was nonstop— and we watched over and over and over again the planes going into the towers.” 

Ms. Flynn said, “There’s definitely a before 9/11 and after 9/11. You had to grow up extremely quickly… having to confront that level of evil, and seeing it replayed over and over and over again was extremely difficult.”

Mr. Muzio, our head of guidance, was also working in the high school on 9/11 and provided powerful insight into that tragic day.  He said,“When the towers collapsed, a teacher was actually holding a student. They were embracing as the towers fell. There was a connectedness to our shared sorrow.” 

Even against overwhelming odds, Mr. Muzio made it clear that the warrior spirit did not die. Counseling centers were set up around the building, a drive was organized the next day for first responders, and the Key Club held a candlelight vigil. 

Mr. Muzio said,“This faculty, we made sure every student had a place to go for comfort and answers, everywhere in the district. Teachers were on the front steps of the homes of elementary students, just to make sure a parent got home.” 

Wantagh would not abandon its students—warriors care.