9-11 Through the Lens of North Forsyth High School


North Forsyth High School’s motto is pride, passion, purpose, and stands strong in its pride for America today and on September 11, 2001 (Photo by Sydney Jarrard).

The Sept. 11 islamic extremist terrorist attacks perfomed by the group al-Qaeda forever changed America in more ways unknown than known. School was in session during the attacks. September 11, 2022 marks 21 years since the attacks occured. Travis Jarrard, Gail Richardson, and Bob Carnaroli recall what North Forsyth High School was like that day. 


Travis Jarrard, the wrestling coach, taught U.S. History at North at the time of the attacks. During 2001, there were no smart boards or phones to get active news coverage; youtube streaming didn’t exist. However, in every classroom, there was a television mounted on every wall. “The 200 building was under construction, so sometime over the summer, they had cut our cable. On that particular day, there was something going on with the internet,” said Jarrard.


“One of my students had an orthodontist appointment or a dentist appointment, and he told me that something was going on, that a plane hit a building in New York,” said Jarrard. The internet and the lack of cable blocked his and his student’s ways of getting any information at the time, but Jarrard didn’t let that stop him. “So, I went to the library, and I got a radio and started playing it during classes to try and get some more information,” said Jarrard.


Later on in the day, the internet was restored. “I was able to pull up CNN to start seeing the pictures. It became very clear by lunch that we were under attack. It was sickening. By the time we got done with lunch, everything was really somber. The halls were quiet in between classes. I think just about everybody in the building wanted to get home. They wanted to be with their family; they wanted to get out of here. I wanted to tell them that everything would be okay,” said Jarrard. 


Gail Richardson also taught at North on that harrowing day. She had to find her own way of accessing information. “Somebody had cut the fiber-optic cable, so we didn’t have any access to TV. [The school] had a radio that was playing in the office, but all we had was this article. We got wind that something that happened. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it,” said Richardson. 


What news Richardson did receive was difficult to understand, so later in the day, she searched for answers. There was a television in her co-worker’s room. “I opened the door, and my dear friend was at the door. He was just saying, ‘The TV’s not working, Gail,’” said Richardson. Thus, she ate her lunch as more reports came in. Classes continued on, and she brought reassurance to her students. “I said we don’t know what’s happening for certain. If it’s true what they say that this is terrorists, then what they’re doing is trying to disrupt our lives. They’re trying to take apart the world we live in. So, I said the best thing we can do, little normal people in a high school in Georgia, is to have our lesson and learn something because that’s what they don’t want us to do. They want us to be in chaos,” said Richardson. Her talk resonated with her students, and they continued their lessons. 


Our current principal Bob Carnaroli was a counselor at North during the attacks. “I was in my office in the 400 hall, and right across the hallway was our principal Betty Pope. There was a cart—an AV cart— with the television on it,” said Carnaroli. While numerous other staff members and students found difficulty finding information on the attacks, Carnaroli was in a different position. “I was able to walk across the hall and visualize the Twin Towers,” said Carnaroli.


The first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m.. “I saw the first one get hit by the plane, and then we were just sitting there like…this is unbelievable,” said Carnaroli. The second plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m.. “When the second tower got hit, and all of the aftermath, we didn’t know what to say, we didn’t know what to do,” said Carnaroli. His job as a counselor was to help the students even in a time of shock and confusion.


“Obviously, our students started to find out about it, so we were dealing with students. It wasn’t anything we’ve ever dealt with before, so you were thrusted into all of the things that you were taught and trained to do to try to get people through a crisis,” explained Carnaroli. Although North is roughly 864 miles away from New York City, students were deeply affected by the attacks, some more than others. “I think a lot of it was shock and disbelief, and then, there were [students] here who had family members that knew they worked in New York City. There was somebody in the Two Towers who might not have gotten out. It started to spread from ‘oh my gosh, this happened’ to ‘Okay, who’s there?’” said Carnaroli.


Many places in North were in the dark for a great deal of time on Sept. 11, 2001 and some… not so much. However, one recurring theme during the crisis and chaos of the day was North’s determination to restore order and continue with normalcy.