With Their Eyes

LWHS With Their Eyes Poster V4.jpg

I could have died that day.

September 11, 2001

Monologues from Stuyvesant High School

Certain moments in history leave a lasting impression. Even for those we were not yet born or too young to comprehend what happened, are still affected today by the events of September 11, 2001. The terrorist attack on the New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington DC. changed our foreign policy, the way we travel, and was the start of several wars which only recently concluded.

Commemorating twenty+ years since the event, this deeply moving play, written by high school students who witnessed the tragedy unfold, remembers September 11, 2001.

Tuesday, September 11, started off like any other day at Stuyvesant High School, located only a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.

The semester was just beginning, and the students, faculty, and staff were ready to start a new year. But within a few hours on that Tuesday morning, they would share an experience that would transform their lives—and the lives of all Americans.

This powerful play, written by students of Stuyvesant High School and performed by students, teachers and staff of LW High School, based on SHS interviews with the school community, remembers those who were lost and those who were forced to witness this tragedy. Here, in their own words, are the firsthand stories of a day we will never forget.

This collection helped shape the HBO documentary In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11.

Annie Thoms, an English teacher at Stuyvesant High School, spearheaded a school production based on 10 students' recorded interviews (with classmates, faculty and staff members).

The students converted the transcripts into "poem-monologues," which they presented and the text of which appears in the book and on stage. In Thoms's introduction to the book, she notes that the goal was "to capture the ways individual people express themselves in speech," and, indeed, the collective impression is one of a group therapy session that may well provide some healing for teen readers still struggling with the event's aftermath.

 

Many of the monologues (at times laced with "um" and "like") probably work better in a dramatization; on the page, the narratives at times falter and a few repeat similar themes. The poignant "Precious Cargo," for instance, begins with a photograph of a student performing as a pregnant English teacher, and her words of protectiveness about both her unborn child and her students read well on the page, but is even more moving onstage.

 

Still, the emotional rhythms of the volume take on a credible ebb and flow. A welcome dash of humor comes through in a freshman's contention that the students' relocation to Brooklyn Tech (while their school functioned as a triage center) put everyone on equal footing ("Everybody was like/ `Where the hell are my classes?'/ so it was kinda like everybody was a freshman").

 

In the closing entry, perhaps the most smoothly structured in the volume, the school theater manager recalls returning to a newly reopened Stuyvesant to find the flag missing from the stage. Later, he "came across a picture/ of firemen/ installing a flag/ on the mast of the World Trade Center/ and I looked at the picture and my jaw dropped./ It was our flag." Audiences willing to overlook less relevant and revealing segments will find a number of moving moments here.