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Eighteen Years Later, Rickards Teacher Alejando Zapata Remembers 9/11

A man sits in front of bookshelves for an interview.
Leon County Schools
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Leon County Schools

It’s been 18 years since the worst terrorist attack in U.S. History brought down the Twin Towers in New York City. Rickards High School Teacher Alejando Zapata was in the 7th grade and living in Queens when the towers fell. 

Zapata was in school at the time of the attack and recalls seeing a giant, mountain-like cloud of smoke enveloping lower Manhattan. His school went into lockdown as students and teachers tried to figure out what was happening.

Zapata describes the attack in a video posted on twitter by Leon County Schools.

 “You see buildings here. And you don’t see buildings here," Zapata says, describing the moment as "surreal." Even now, he says, "it doesn’t seem like it really happened.”

But it did, and set about massive cultural changes in the U.S., including the way Americans view their own security. 9/11 was also the catalyst for the longest war in the country’s history, one that’s ongoing.

Some 6,000 people were injured and nearly 3,000 people died when the towers fell. To this day, many of the victims have yet to be properly identified.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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