I keep reading requests for where you were on September 11, 2001. For me it’s not about where I was, but rather where I wasn’t.
I wasn’t inside the twin towers but could have been had I not accepted a job with a Fortune 500 corporation instead of following through and taking a job with the New York New Jersey Port Authority.
I could have also been inside the Pentagon had I not moved to the west coast.
Instead, I’m here writing this post as I listen for the names of Stephanie Veronica Irby, Bernard Brown II and his teacher and classmates.
Stephanie was the niece of Leo and Hazel Fournier. Mrs. Fournier is a former long serving member of Mobile Alabama’s school board, and the step daughter of Clarence Mathews Sr. Mr. Mathews mortgaged his house to take a group pf Black boys to Washington, D.C. to secure the first Black Boy Scout charter in Mobile.
Although she did not share Mathew’s DNA, Stephanie certainly shared his spirited dedication and work. Stephanie Irby had just returned from Mobile for the labor day holiday were she visited with friends and family. On Sept. 11, Stephanie Irby had planned to take the day off, but “she was too conscientious to miss work,” says her older brother Kenneth Irby said. “In the last minute, she decided to go in.”
A true Trekkie, Stephanie would have fit right in on the Starship Enterprise. “Her collection of `Star Trek’ videotapes just blew my mind,” said Addison Irby, an older brother. As soon as a tape was released, she bought it. “When I tried to debate with her about what Captain Kirk did, she would take out a tape, find the exact spot and show me that I was wrong,” he said. Ms. Irby, 38, an accountant for Marsh & McLennan, who always wore “a big, bright smile,” microwaved the food for her dog, Charlie, a golden retriever, said Kenneth Irby, another older brother. And she doted on her 2-year-old niece, Cecelia Melton. Ms. Irby, who was single, shared a house in Queens with Cecelia and her mother, Stephanie’s older sister, Pam Irby. “Stephanie was like a second mother to Cecelia,” Kenneth said. “Before she died, she was about to use her own savings to open up a college fund account for the baby.”
Bernard and his teacher Hilda Taylor had joined other D.C. students and teachers and their National Geographic chaperons for a science field trip to the west coast. Teacher James Debeuneure and student Rodney Dickens were representing Ketcham Elementary School; teacher Sarah Clark and student Asia Cottom were from Backus Middle School. All the students were 11-year-old sixth graders.
They had been selected to participate in a program at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, California, as part of a Society-funded marine research project known as Sustainable Seas Expeditions. They were aboard American Airlines Flight 77 — the jet that terrorists flew into the Pentagon.
On 9/11/2001, and days thereafter, no one in the media spoke of these kids and their teachers. Because I had lived in D.C., I knew that they were kids of color. The rest of the world would not find out about them until two weeks later. This was after the media had exhausted all the sad stories in regard to white America.
As for the children of Martha Ratchford, no one came to pick them up from school. Martha who worked at the Pentagon also perished on that unforgettable day here in America when the terrorist did not distinguish between black and white America. Maybe the day will come when we will not distinguish between black, red, brown, yellow and white America. Instead we will be one America of many cultures.
You can view the list of the 9/11 victims here and review the memorial held at Leckie Elementary School in D.C. by clicking on the video above.
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