by Billy Bannon
Eagle Editorial Board
An off-course airplane crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, rattling the stoic structure. It is followed 17 minutes later by another airplane directed at the South Tower. The towers emit a cloud of smoke that snakes across the morning sky. Employees, clad in charred suits, leap from the windows to escape suffocating or being consumed by fire.
Images from Sept. 11, 2001, when a band of radical Muslims attacked our nation on its home soil, will never fade from the American people’s memory.
The tragedy left a permanent dent on American society. It heightened fear, inciting revolutionary security measures to be implemented, but also united the nation under a shared thirst for justice.
Justice came unexpectedly on May 2, 2011 when a unit of elite U.S. Navy Seals assassinated Osama Bin Laden, founder of the terrorist organization al Quaeda and orchestrator of the Sept. 9 attacks. Bin Laden’s death alleviated some of the pain that Americans have endured since that day, but history will never forget his crimes.
The school community also did not forget Sept. 11.
In Sept. 9’s morning prayers and announcements, Rev. Jim Murphy, C.S.B. commemorated the tragedy’s victims and heroes in honor of its tenth anniversary.
The mention of Sept. 11 naturally generated a surge of emotions and memories among students, teachers and staff.
Senior Cole Ritchie, who was only in second grade at the time, still recalls specifics of what happened that day and how he received the news.
“I didn’t fully realize the gravity of the situation because I was so young,” Ritchie said, “but I knew that there were terrorists and they were attacking the U.S.”
As Ritchie’s elementary school dismissed classes early for the day, publications adviser John Michael Cuccia, who was a freshman at St. Thomas at the time, overheard students talking about the attacks in the hallway.
During his third period advanced biology class with science dean Dr. Pete Nordloh, President Rev. Ronald Schwenzer, C.S.B., who was the principal at the time, came on the intercom to announce the news.
“It was just one of those big events where I’ll never forget where I was, who I was with and what it was like,” Cuccia said.
Director of Student Activities Joe O’Brien, minus the moustache, and theology teacher Jenny McConnell were planning the annual Walk-a-thon. Feeling compelled to have a special tribute in light of recent events, O’Brien and McConnell purchased approximately six hundred small American flags.
“We had to hunt all over the city for the flags,” McConnell said. “They were sold out everywhere. Everyone wanted to buy one. When we did finally find them, it was barely enough and we had to pay a fortune.”
On Sept. 15, 2001, a mass of students all waving American flags circled the Bayou. Passersby driving along Memorial applied their brakes and stared at the extraordinary red, white, and blue display of patriotism. They honked their horns and cheered “God bless America!”
A film crew from Channel 11 arrived at the scene and filmed the students. Stephen Schwarzbach, cousin of senior Brian Schwarzbach, and other Walk-a-thon participants appeared on the local news.
In addition, a group of students, chaperoned by social studies teacher Phillip Gensheimer, were invited to attend a taping of the Debra Duncan Show. The show featured a panel of experts, ranging from an FBI agent to a local Muslim.
A decade later, the student body’s patriotism remains solid and strong.