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Classmates say 9-11 drew them together

Clarice Bushee

It seemed that morning that everyone knew someone in New York. A distant relative. A friend’s friend.

“There are so many connections,” said NKHS senior Clarice Bushee.

For Bushee, that connection was an uncle who had been scheduled to conduct a seminar in the World Trade Center.

Later, her family found out that his talk had been scheduled for Sept. 12.

Like most of the students at North Kitsap High School, Bushee spent the day keeping a close eye on television coverage of the attacks.

“It was sad, watching it every period,” said Bushee.

In second period, the towers collapsed.

“It just shocked us so much,” she said. “We’re America. This kind of thing doesn’t happen to us.”

That day, Bushee said, students wondered why the attacks could have happened, speculated on the nature and identity of the attackers, and watched television to find out the answers.

“Mostly we wondered why,” Bushee said.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, Bushee said, students expressed a greater thankfulness for the freedom of religion that’s present in America. When students heard that mosques in Washington State had been vandalized, they were upset, Bushee said.

She still is.

“That’s so stupid,” she remarked. “They may have come here (to America) trying to get away from that kind of thing.”

Something else that upset Bushee happened during a moment of silence that was held at the school the month after the attacks.

During that moment, one table full of students in the cafeteria was giggling and making jokes.

“That wasn’t a time to make fun of anything,” Bushee said. “Making fun then is like making fun of what it was we were being silent for... we told them to be quiet, to have some respect.”

David Andersen, principal, North Kitsap High School

Like everyone else, David Andersen was shocked by the events on the morning of Sept. 11.

But unlike everyone else, Andersen had 1,400 students to think of.

He first heard about the first plane on the radio that morning but arrived at school to find the situation was growing much worse.

“I got to school and found that it was not just one tower (that had been hit) but two. I never imagined the two towers would collapse,” Andersen said.

“The mood for the majority of people was shock and dismay,” he explained. “How could people attack the USA, kill people, and think they could get away?”

While students and staff watched history unfold on the television and talked about it in quiet tones, Andersen crafted an update to be read over the intercom.

Later, he heard some schools outside of North Kitsap didn’t want their students to hear about the events or be upset by them. While Andersen feels that idea may be appropriate for younger children, he wanted the students at North Kitsap High School to have the facts.

“My philosophy is, if there’s something going on, I’d rather be up front and let students know,” he said.

In the year since, Andersen has seen a change in most students. He said they are more patriotic, more thankful that they live where they live — and more.

“They realize there’s a price to pay for freedom,” he said.

Andersen recently attended a Mariners game where 40,000 baseball fans stood as “God Bless America” was played.

Just one more sign, he said, that America has changed.

Andersen will read another statement today, commemorating the events of a year ago, but besides that, he hopes he will not have to take to the intercom again.

“Hopefully, we won’t have another tragedy for a long time,” he noted.

Amanda Fuller, student body president, North Kitsap High School

In the 365 days since the last Sept. 11, Amanda Fuller has seen changes in her fellow students. Changes for the better.

“You saw it in the halls,” Fuller said. “People didn’t tease each other. They weren’t standoffish.”

Fuller said that very little schoolwork, if little, was done a year ago. Instead, students watched TV and talked about what was happening on the eastern seaboard.

“It was depressing and shocking that people could be that heartless,” Fuller said. “We didn’t do anything in class. No one was goofing off. Everyone was deep in thought.”

While some of the students’ behavior has gone back to normal after the events of a year ago, Fuller said the changes are still evident.

“For a lot of people it’s still there,” she said. “Some people try to forget, but it sticks in their mind. For a while, students were more sensitive to other students’ feelings... they knew even though we’re Americans. We can be hurt. This put reality in people’s lives.”

Jason Mumford, senior, North Kitsap High School

When Jason Mumford turned on the radio the morning of Sept. 11, he heard silence.

Then a somber announcer came on to say that a plane had struck one tower of the World Trade Center.

When Mumford arrived at school, he found that everything had changed.

“You could feel it,” he said. “It was like the beginning of WWII. Something was going to happen and it was going to be big.”

What happened was, the English teacher told the class that English would not be studied that day.

Instead, students watched the TV, kept quiet, hugged.

“People I see who usually glare at each other were hugging each other,” said Mumford. “That’s great. But it’s sad that it took something like that to make it happen.”

That unity has retreated a little bit, Mumford said. But it hasn’t gone away completely.

“They’re more open,” he said of his classmates. “More emotional. There isn’t as much hostility as usual. It’s like a spring. After you stretch it, it returns to normal. But if you stretch it far enough, it doesn’t go back.”

Mumford said he is uncomfortable with calling Sept. 11 “Patriot Day,” saying that the term has been overused since a year ago. But he thinks the day will be a special one no matter what isn’t called.

“It’s not going to be a normal day. It’s never going to be normal again,” he said.

Gene Medina, Superintendent of Schools, North Kitsap School District

“I remember in my mind thinking, ‘How huge is this thing? How widespread? How much is going on?’” Supt. Gene Medina said.

Medina had more than that to think of the morning of Sept. 11. He had to help coordinate communication efforts between all the schools in the district, as well as help schools get clear and accurate information to students.

On the way to work that morning, Medina called a meeting of district administrators, all of whom had been assigned a school in the case of an emergency. Then he called Poulsbo Junior High (his school), and later drove to the high school.

One student, Medina recalled, came into the office very upset.

“Her parents were in the military and she was staying with other people, “ he explained. “One parent was in one part of the U.S., and one was in the other... remember, at the time, it wasn’t about just New York or the Pentagon or Pennsylvania — it was just happening. So we worked to connect her to her mom. I just remember the fear she had.”

The student was able to reach her mother at Pearl Harbor later that evening, and her father later than that.

Medina said the impact of the attack hit him later that evening.

At first, he said, he was concentrating on the schools.

“There’s a shock,” he said. “But you have responsibilities. You just move ahead.”

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