September 2011
August 21, 2011

'I'm not always on the edge, but I'm close'

Source: NYSUT United

Laurence Wooster was a senior attending Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan when two hijacked American Airlines passenger jets hit the World Trade Center towers.

"We saw things I will never forget, like people jumping off the building," Laurence wrote in an account published in the Sept. 26, 2001, issue of New York Teacher, then NYSUT's bi-weekly statewide newspaper.

"I tried to convince myself that, somehow, someone would be on the ground to catch them in a net or a mattress. But I knew that was impossible. I knew I was watching people die."

We asked Laurence to reflect on Sept. 11, 10 years later:

Time heals most wounds, but not all. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the mildest disruptions in normality - power outages, stalled subway cars - appear to me as signals of another attack, signs that New York is once again about to plunge into chaos. I'm not always on edge, but I'm close. Sometimes images come to me, unwanted and unwelcome, of people jumping, falling. This, unfortunately, will stay with me forever.

As a Stuyvesant High School alumnus, I tell my story with a survivor's pride, but in the past decade I've added anger and frustration to the mix. Anger at the unanswered questions, at the pigeonholing of skepticism as conspiracy, at the complete lack of accountability. Frustration at the pace of recovery, at the lack of resources for those affected physically, emotionally and financially.

I don't blame the faculty for the decisions they made that day, but I do blame their bosses for returning us to Stuy only a few weeks later. This was a poor decision, and our bodies are paying the price. Twenty-somethings shouldn't have cancer and respiratory illnesses, yet those who were Stuy students on Sept. 11 are falling victim to these conditions.

Luckily, we've got advocates, particularly Lila Nordstrom, founder of StuyHealth. Unluckily, nobody seems to care.

Sept. 11, 2011, will pass like any other day. I will remember by looking forward, hoping those affected by the tragedy live long, healthy lives. All I carry with me are demons, and I count myself among the fortunate.

Editor's note: Students at Stuyvesant High returned to school less than a month after Sept. 11. Some developed respiratory diseases and cancer. StuyHealth was formed to be their advocate. Visit www.stuyhealth.blogspot.com or www.facebook.com/StuyHealth/