Local teacher remembers working in World Trade Center on 9/11
Wednesday marks the 12th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. Remembrance ceremonies took place across the country including one at Red Bank High School.
And Channel 3 found a teacher at Red Bank who remembers the day well. Michel Belknap worked on the 15th floor of World Trade Center One in the early 2000's.
She was getting to work later than usual that Tuesday morning in 2001. Belknap and her husband had just left Starbucks and were a couple of city blocks from the World Trade Center when the first plane, Flight 11, hit the tower.
"It was utterly tragic. You couldn't do anything. it was mass chaos," she said.
It was chaos that most of us experienced watching television at home, work or school hundreds of miles away.
Even Belknap's students, now juniors and seniors in high school, have their memories.
"I remember certain things about that day," said Senior Josey Jonow. "Teachers and parents trying to keep certain things away from their children."
"My mom stayed home that day and we turned on the TV," said Junior Katie Sneed. "She held me close and said 'just pray.'"
"We didn't understand being five years old what we were actually watching," said Senior Corey Vandergriff.
Katie, Corey and Josey were in Kindergarten or pre-K, no older than 5-years-old on 9/11. Still, the three Junior ROTC members remembered the lives lost with a moment of silence in a remembrance ceremony Wednesday morning.
"At my age now, I would've been emotionally distraught seeing people go through that," Sneed said.
"'In a sense I understood something bad had happened, but I wasn't fully able to comprehend," Vandergiff said.
Belknap said regardless of age or geographical proximity to the tragedies, everyone has a memory of that day.
"Everyone has a 9/11 experience. They know someone or they experienced something from that day," Belknap said.
Even Belknap had trouble moving on. She lost some acquaintances in the attacks.
"My husband's close friends were on the plane from Boston," she said. "There were some firefighters we knew and respected that lost their lives also."
Belknap turned to art, expressing her emotion and memories with a paintbrush and an easel.
After the attack, Belknap moved back to her hometown in New Orleans. She and her husband moved to Chattanooga after their home was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Belknap said it was her experiences with 9/11 and Katrina that drove her to teach art.
"I am here for a reason, put here for a purpose. I feel that purpose is to teach student's how to express themselves through art," she said.