The attacks in the eyes of a fourth grader
On Sept. 11, 2001, most seniors now at St. John’s were in the fourth grade, Skye Mahoney being one of them.
Mahoney, a 9-year-old in Ms. Figueroa’s class at PS 212 in Jackson Heights, started the day off like any other. Dressed in a sweater, jeans and her favorite Jordan sneakers, she took advantage of the beautiful morning.
“It was a really nice day out,” she said. “Because I remember my mom let me play outside for a little before entering the school.”
The day started out fairly normal, but during writing class that morning Mahoney realized something was wrong.
“I started to realize my teacher kept leaving the classroom and she never left,” Mahoney said. “So that was a little odd to me but I still had no idea what was going on.”
“I remember Ms. Figueroa’s facial expression because she looked shocked, like she didn’t know what to do,” she said. “Writing time went on later than normal and I remember this because I hated it and wanted it to end.”
Soon Mahoney’s friends were all being picked up from school. She was one of only three students in her class who was not picked up.
“I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was,” she said. “I remember having a bad feeling in my stomach and I started to get nervous.”
Throughout the day Mahoney picked up on the little things, such as teachers crying, a special pizza party and watching movies in class.
The school day came and went, but Mahoney was still not picked up. At the end of the day, the remaining students were brought in the gymnasium to watch a movie. Mahoney said she was on her best behavior.
“I look back on it now and maybe we all felt something because nobody got in trouble,” she said. “I remember we were all calm, we all behaved, we all just listened. “
Around 7 p.m., Mahoney’s mother, an actress, picked her up from school. She had been stranded in Manhattan and had to walk all the way to Queens. Mahoney said she can remember watching the news with her mom that night and crying thinking about all the children who lost their parents.
Mahoney’s stepfather, who owned a café in Chelsea, did not come home until late that night. He had been trapped in the city as well.
“I fell asleep on the couch that night watching the news,” she said. “I didn’t go to school for the rest of the week.”
Even though she was so young, Mahoney felt compelled to help those affected by the attacks. When her father and grandfather volunteered at Ground Zero, Mahoney passed out paper hearts she made to everyone who walked by. In her young mind, she thought her hearts were the cure for everyone’s pain.
“Turned out I didn’t cure the world,” she said. “But my family didn’t let me feel bad for it or let me carry any hate in my heart.”
Instead Mahoney’s family used the attacks as a teaching moment.
“I think that’s what 9/11 taught me the most was not to hate other countries,” she said. “But to help and forgive.”