20 years after 9/11: Orangewood teachers recall shock and disbelief

By DEBBIE DIAZ, JOSEPH PACHECO and APRIL CABRERA

Three teachers at Orangewood High School recall when they first heard about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks: Mark Perkins, physical education teacher, Norma Beckwith, social studies teacher and Louise Gonzales, mathematics teacher.


Mark Perkins, P.E. teacher

Audio recording of interview on Sept. 10, 2021 with Mark Perkins, physical education teacher at Orangewood High School, on what he remembers about the 2001 attacks on the twin towers. Perkins recalls shock.

DEBBIE DIAZ: What were you doing on the day the twin towers were hit?

MARK PERKINS: I didn’t find out about the twin towers until I woke up that morning and then — I don’t know how I knew it was on the news — but it was on the news. Oh, I know how I knew it was one the news. I had a cousin, my wife’s first cousin, he was doing his residency at the closest hospital to where the twin towers fell. When they were bringing victims in, they were bringing them to his hospital. So he called us just to let us know how he was okay. So that’s how I found out that morning about the twin towers. Does that answer your question?

DIAZ: Yes. What was your reaction when you first found out?

PERKINS: I would say the biggest reaction is shock. I would say, you know, my wife grew in a country, she was born in Africa, she grew up in a country where there was war and that kind of — the kind of behavior that happened in the U.S. on that day was like what she remembered happening in the country that she grew up in Malawi in Africa. And nothing like that had ever been seen before in America. So it was just shock the fact that bad guys could come in and do that to us, and we just let it happen.

PACHECO: No one have responsibility.

DIAZ: Do you know anyone that was affected physically by the attack?

PERKINS: Like I mentioned earlier, my cousin was in his second year of residency at one of the hospitals, so he got to see a lot of the victims that were brought in. So I can’t say that specifically victims, but it was interesting hearing. I mean he could look out his hospital window, and he could see the towers smoking and on fire. You know, when they collapsed, he was a first hand witness to that kind of a thing. So it was interesting to hear from his perspective.


Norma Beckwith, history teacher

Audio recording of interview on Sept. 10, 2021 with Norma Beckwith, social studies teacher at Orangewood High School, on what she remembers about the 2001 attacks on the twin towers. Beckwith recalls disbelief.

DIAZ: What were you doing on the day the twin towers were hit?

NORMA BECKWITH: Getting ready to go to work, to teach at Clement Middle School.

DIAZ: What was your reaction when you found out?

BECKWITH: Disbelief initially. You know, when the first plane hit, it was like “What is going on?” But when the second one hit, I  knew we were under attack. And then fear. Fear.

DIAZ: Do you know someone that was affected physically by the attack?

BECKWITH: No, surprisingly on the West coast I knew absolutely no one. I mean, I knew of people, friends who knew people, but I was not impacted personally — my family, my friends — but, just am forever saddened about 3,000 plus lives that were lost.

DIAZ: Right, a tragedy, right.

PACHECO: Do you believe in any conspiracies?

BECKWITH: I absolutely do not believe in conspiracy theories. We were attacked by the terrorists, Al Queda. There is no conspiracy. They’re out to ruin our way of life.


Louise Gonzales, math teacher

Audio recording of interview on Sept. 10, 2021 with Louise Gonzales, mathematics teacher at Orangewood High School, on what she remembers about the 2001 attacks on the twin towers. Gonzales recalls shock.

DIAZ: What were you doing on the day the twin towers were hit?

LOUISE GONZALES: I had just gotten to my classroom, getting ready to teach for the day.

DIAZ: And what was your reaction when you found out?

GONZALES: Shock. Shock. I didn’t really know what was going on.

DIAZ: What went through your head?

GONZALES: I just…shock. Like, “What’s going on?”

DIAZ: Do you know of someone who was affected physically by the attack?

GONZALES: No.

PACHECO: Do you believe in any conspiracies about the attack, like the government, or…?

GONZALES: No.

PACHECO: You just believe it was a terrorist attack?

GONZALES: Yea.

Lea este artículo en español aquí: https://ethic-news.org/2021/09/22/20-anos-pasado-orangewood-maestros-recuerda-memorias-de-la-sept-11-ataques/

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