12-year-old Helania Hovitz Regal at the time of the September 11 attack, the author and her family survived. As time passed and she noticed her neighborhood covered in smog, wreck, and the pain of people who lost their loved ones. After that, threats of more attacks and building collapses were received and she realized that 9/11 was just a beginning. As Regal is the eye witness, people ask her many questions about the incident. So here are the few questions from a 9/11 survivor.
The Worst Morning
I was 12 years old attending my school that was three blocks away from the World Trade Center. It was the fine morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when the planes hit the towers and our teachers gathered us all in the cafeteria. I can still remember those terrific moments when the parents were hurrying to pull out their kids amid the anarchy.
I started worrying, wondering how I would get home back to my family on the other side of the Towers where my aged grandparents also lived. Suddenly, my neighbor and her 13-year-old son appeared in the doorway, reaching late for the day after an appointment, to drive me home. We departed just a few moments before the first tower collapsed. As we were running for our lives, I saw, heard, and smelled everything terrific as the first and then the second tower collapsed.
Being a child, I had no idea if we would be killed in a second, what we were going to face next, and if the world was going to end before I could see my family again and say goodbye. I survived, but that morning was just the beginning of my trauma.
I composed the book ‘After 9/11’ in 2016 which is based on my real-life experiences and that of my several other former schoolmates. This book is also an answer to questions from a 9/11 survivor. After that, I started receiving emails from the youth and even kids asking me several questions about the 9/11 incident.
Questions from a 9/11 Survivor
What was your reaction when the plane hit the first tower?
As the plane hit the first tower, we all felt its impact in the classroom. I was surprised at that time and I had no clue what was going? As I started learning what happened, I was nervous, scared and startled. These feelings get even worse when I tried to travel back home with my neighbors and most surprisingly, the police were not letting us go even after we told them we live there because they were ordered to guide people to a safe passage out.
What happened to your classmates whose parents can’t come to rescue them?
Those classmates were evacuated. The bomb disposal squad drove them out of the building and uptown away from the Towers, but they were also in the street nearby when the Towers started to collapse, so they all had to run as well. Those pupils were led to another school where they waited for their parents to receive them, once their parents were able to figure out where they were. Some of the children who lived in Battery Park or Tribeca missed their homes for about six months and had to live moving from hotel to hotel.
What were your feelings when you learned your family is safe?
After an anxious night of waiting, my dad eventually made it home the next morning, covered in a dense layer of wreckage, dirt, and sweat. I was very comforted when I found all of my family members were alright. I was very fortunate because so many kids could not say the same, which is very touching. To be honest, I still worried about my family members even after I knew they were alright because I was worried about what would happen next and there were threats of further attacks.
How did you stop thinking about the 9/11 attack?
Unluckily, the shock was so huge and ongoing that it was difficult for me for a very long time. I don’t think I’ll ever forget or ever stop thinking about it, but I have learned to move forward with the memories I do have in a way that makes my life a lot more comfortable.
What do you miss the most about twin towers?
I miss the fountain with the gold sphere. My mom often used to tell me not to touch it because it was dirty but it had water cascading down it so I would crawl my fingers closer when I guessed she wasn’t watching.
Have you ever felt mistrust for Muslims because of the September 11 attack?
Luckily, I had an excellent Humanities lecturer who taught me early on that one small group of people do not represent an entire race or religion, and that these people who chose to do something terrible were not doing it in the name of any or all of them. People of all nationalities, ages, religions, and walks of life can do bad and good things.
What inspired you to start writing about the 9/11 attack?
I was in college when I decided to start writing about my experiences because my response to the terror was very critical and lasted for a very long time. When I got better, I realized there are many kids and teenagers in this country who are still living with PTSD, which is a long-term response to terror and other damaging things that sometimes happen. I believe that writing about 9/11 benefits a lot of other people who may be having a tough time, or who want to read more about what happened that day and in the days after.
How did 9/11 change your perspective on life and the way you see people?
I learned to see the good in terrible circumstances. I learned to sympathize with people who were being selfish, and I learned how to help someone else when I felt upset, and that doing so would make me feel good.
Instead of living in the terror of what the end could and might look like for you and everyone you care about, use it as an urge to live your life to the absolute. The understanding that every day really could be your last is a positive when you apply it to make sure you do what you want to do with your life and remember to tell a loved one or friend how you feel about them.