of a Stuyvesant Teacher: A
Muslim Point of View
accounts are the most emotionally drenching images I have ever
tried to recount. I work at Stuyvesant High School “in the shadow
of” the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center–about 3 blocks away.
This date and its images will accompany me to my grave.
At the end of the second period I raised the shade to one of the
windows in the classroom and saw the top of the north tower of
the WTC engulfed in smoke and flames. The students in my incoming
class told me that from the windows of the classrooms they saw
people jumping from the upper floors of the WTC towers, as well
as cascading debris. From the window, I saw Chambers Street full
of people running with the urgency I’ve only seen in disaster
movies. At the end of the period, it was announced that students
should report to homeroom and wait for instructions.
A student from my third period class asked me if he could go back
to the classroom to retrieve a textbook he had left there. I told
him that I would go with him. As I walked up the stairs, I came
across two female students who were crying. One of these students
was wearing traditional Muslim attire. I asked if they were okay
and the most-composed student said “yes’, but told me that students
were making accusatory comments insinuating that the WTC disaster
was a terrorist attack by Muslims. I told the student that was
crying that I too was a Muslim and that Allah will be with us
all. I attempted to remind her that the Lord would not abandon
her or any one of us. He knows all and knows best. I told her
to seek me out should she be fearful again. She said she would
and we parted.
Suddenly, an announcement was made: “Please stop what you are
doing. Teachers should escort their classes to the exits on the
north side of the building.”
I began to walk north and heard a car radio announce that Manhattan
was completely isolated from the rest of the nation. No one was
entering the city. I had no money, I didn’t know if the ATM machines
were functioning, the ash and smoke was creeping further north
every second and my family didn’t know if my school and I were
engulfed by the calamity. I decided to keep walking. I found a
phone hoping that it would connect me to my parent’s home. I had
to end my call quickly because the smoke and ash was getting closer
and some of the ash was actually falling like flakes of snow.
My throat was feeling the effect of this.
I worked my way to Chinatown and the Manhattan Bridge. The Manhattan
bridge archway now welcomed a stream of people rather than cars.
The Brooklyn bound lanes were filled with people escaping Manhattan,
while the Manhattan bound lanes were for the use of emergency
vehicles coming from Brooklyn.
As I reached the center of the span I looked toward the area once
dominated by the sight of the towers and all that remained was
an enormous plume of dust, ash, and smoke. I was frozen in place
for a moment, then I was forced to move by the stream of people.
Upon reaching Brooklyn, I encountered many people distributing
cups of cold water to passer-bys. I was so grateful for that water
As the Brooklyn sunlight took the shade of the ash-laden air,
I reached my parent’s home at 2:30 pm to the hugs of friends and
If you never thought you could control thousands of students in
time of crisis, let me now tell you it is possible. These kids
were incredible. They were orderly. They were following instructions.
They were fully aware of the gravity of the situation.
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