A CITY UNDER ATTACK  On September 11, 2001, two planes flew into the Twin Towers. These 110-story skyscrapers were the tallest buildings in New York City.

Brad Rickerby/Reuters (World Trade Center)

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From Terror to Hope

One girl’s incredible story of survival and healing after September 11 

Courtesy of Family (Helaina Hovitz)

    The morning of September 11, 2001, was cool and bright in New York City. Twelve-year-old Helaina Hovitz walked to school through the busy streets of lower Manhattan. 

    All around her, the city was bursting with life. Men and women rushed to work. Taxis honked. Police officers directed traffic. 

    Along the way, Helaina passed under the shadow of the Twin Towers. These two 110-story skyscrapers were the tallest buildings in the city. You could see them from miles away. They shot up into the sky, looking powerful and strong. 

    New York had always felt like the center of the world to Helaina. People moved to this amazing city to make their dreams come true. 

    Helaina never could have imagined that the city she loved was about to be attacked.

    It was September 11, 2001. It was cool and bright in New York City. Helaina Hovitz was 12. She walked to school in lower Manhattan.

    The city was full of life. Men and women rushed to work. Taxis honked. Police officers directed traffic.

    Helaina passed under the shadow of the Twin Towers. These two buildings were 110 stories tall. They were the tallest in the city. You could see them from miles away.

    New York felt like the center of the world to Helaina. People moved to this great city to make their dreams come true.

    Helaina had no idea that her city was about to be attacked.

    The morning of September 11, 2001, was cool and bright in New York City. Twelve-year-old Helaina Hovitz walked to school through the busy streets of lower Manhattan. 

    All around her, the city was bursting with energy: Men and women hurried to work, taxis honked, and police officers directed traffic.

    Along the way, Helaina passed under the shadow of the Twin Towers. These two 110-story skyscrapers, the tallest buildings in the city, could be seen from miles away. They shot up into the sky, looking powerful and strong.

    New York had always felt like the center of the world to Helaina. People moved to this amazing city to pursue their dreams.

    Helaina never could have imagined that the city she loved was about to be attacked.

Paper and Ash 

    At 8:46 a.m., Helaina sat in her first-period science class. Suddenly, the floor shook. The shelves rattled. 

    Students looked at each other in surprise. Helaina thought a truck had popped a tire. But in fact, something terrible had happened. An airplane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers—the North Tower. 

    Soon, the sirens began. Then, at 9:03 a.m., a second plane hit the South Tower.

    Parents came to pick up their kids. But Helaina’s parents worked too far away to come get her. She spotted her neighbor Charles and his mother, Ann. “Please take me with you,” Helaina begged. 

    The three of them stepped outside. Helaina felt like she was in a disaster movie. Paper and ash rained from the sky. Shouts filled the air. 

    Some people stood frozen. They stared up at the smoke that poured from the sides of the towers. But Helaina, Ann, and Charles kept moving. They just wanted to make it home alive.

    At 8:46 a.m., Helaina was in science class. Suddenly, the floor shook. The shelves rattled.

    Kids looked at each other. Had a truck popped a tire? No. A plane had hit one of the Twin Towers, the North Tower.

    At 9:03, a second plane hit the South Tower. Parents came to get their kids. But Helaina’s parents worked far away. She left with her neighbor Charles and his mom, Ann.

    Outside, Helaina felt like she was in a disaster movie. Paper and ash fell from the sky. Shouts filled the air.

    Some people stood frozen. They stared at the towers. But Helaina, Ann, and Charles kept moving. They just wanted to get home alive.

    At 8:46 a.m., Helaina was sitting in her first-period science class. Suddenly, the floor shook and the shelves rattled.

    Students exchanged glances, surprised. Helaina thought a truck had popped a tire. But in fact, something terrible had happened. An airplane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers—the North Tower.

    Before long, the sirens began. Then, at 9:03 a.m., a second airplane hit the South Tower.

    Parents came to pick up their kids—but Helaina’s parents worked too far away to come get her.

    She spotted her neighbor Charles and his mother, Ann. “Please take me with you,” Helaina begged.

    As the three of them stepped outside, Helaina felt like she was in a disaster movie. Paper and ash rained from the sky, and shouts rang through the air.

    Some people stood frozen, staring up at the smoke that poured from the sides of the towers. But Helaina, Ann, and Charles kept moving. They just wanted to make it home alive.

Jim McMahon/Mapman ®

Close to Home
Helaina lived in an apartment building at the southern end of Manhattan. Each day, she walked past the Twin Towers on her way to school.

Ghosts

    The Twin Towers were iconic. They were part of a famous office and shopping center called the World Trade Center. Roughly 50,000 people worked there. Many people felt the towers symbolized America’s power. 

    But to Helaina, the World Trade Center was just part of her neighborhood. It was where she and her mom bought doughnuts and books. Now, she barely recognized it. 

    As Helaina walked, smoke stung her eyes and nose. Crowds of people pushed past. Their clothes and faces were covered with ash. Helaina thought they looked like ghosts. Then Helaina saw her reflection in a window. She was shocked to see that she looked like a ghost too. 

    The Twin Towers had been designed to survive almost anything. But the fires burned so hot that the steel frames of the buildings melted. 

    Seventy-three minutes after the first plane struck, the South Tower collapsed. Twenty-nine minutes after that, the North Tower fell. When the smoke finally cleared, there was only sky.

    The Twin Towers were iconic. They were part of a famous office and shopping center. It was called the World Trade Center. About 50,000 people worked there. To many people, the towers symbolized America’s power.

    But to Helaina, the World Trade Center was just part of her neighborhood. It was where she and her mom bought doughnuts and books. Now, she barely recognized it.

    Smoke stung Helaina’s eyes and nose. Crowds of people pushed past. They were covered with ash. To Helaina, they looked like ghosts. Then she saw her reflection in a window. She looked like a ghost too.

    The Twin Towers were built to last. But the fires burned too hot. The steel frames of the buildings melted.

    Seventy-three minutes after the first plane struck, the South Tower collapsed. Twenty-nine minutes after that, the North Tower fell. The smoke cleared. There was only sky.

    The Twin Towers were iconic. They were part of a famous office and shopping center called the World Trade Center. Approximately 50,000 people worked there. Many people felt the towers symbolized America’s power.

    But to Helaina, the World Trade Center was simply part of her neighborhood—the place where she and her mom bought doughnuts and books. Now, this familiar landmark was practically unrecognizable.

    As Helaina walked, smoke stung her eyes and nose. Crowds of people pushed past, their clothing and faces covered with ash. Helaina thought they looked like ghosts. Then Helaina caught a glimpse of her reflection in a window and was astonished to see that she looked like a ghost too.

    The Twin Towers had been designed to survive almost anything, but the fires burned so hot that the steel frames of the buildings melted.

    Seventy-three minutes after the first airplane struck, the South Tower collapsed. Twenty-nine minutes after that, the North Tower fell. When the smoke finally cleared, there was only sky.

HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP/Getty Images (Brooklyn); The New York Times (Newspaper)

Day of Terror  
People watched the fires burn from across the river in Brooklyn. Most Americans will never forget where they were on September 11, 2001. 

The Coming Weeks

    Helaina made it home safely to her family. But not everyone was so lucky. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11. 

    The news was filled with stories of courage. Firefighters had rushed into the burning buildings. People had carried injured co-workers down smoke-filled stairwells. 

    The wreckage of the towers was massive. It stood 17 stories high and burned for months.

    In the coming weeks, the world would learn everything that had happened that day. A group of terrorists called Al Qaeda (ahl KYE-duh) had hijacked four planes. 

    Al Qaeda followed a hate-filled form of the religion Islam. The group used terrorism to “punish” countries with different views. Most Muslims—people who follow Islam—do not agree with Al Qaeda’s beliefs. 

    Al Qaeda members crashed two planes into the Twin Towers. They flew one plane into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. military near Washington, D.C. 

    The fourth plane was probably headed for the White House. But brave passengers fought back against the terrorists. That plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

    Helaina made it home safely. But many did not. Nearly 3,000 people died that day.

    The news was filled with stories of courage. Firefighters had rushed into the burning buildings. People had carried injured co-workers down stairs.

    The wreckage of the towers was huge. It stood 17 stories high. And it burned for months.

    Soon, the world would learn all that had happened that day. A group of terrorists called Al Qaeda had hijacked four planes.

    Al Qaeda followed a hate-filled form of the religion Islam. The group used violence to “punish” countries that did not share its views. People who follow Islam are called Muslims. Most Muslims do not agree with Al Qaeda’s (ahl KYE-duh) views.

    Al Qaeda members crashed two planes into the Twin Towers. They flew one plane into the Pentagon. That’s the headquarters of the U.S. military. It’s near Washington, D.C.

    The fourth plane was probably headed for the White House. But brave passengers fought the terrorists. That plane crashed in a field.

    Helaina made it home safely to her family, but not everyone was so fortunate. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11.

    The news was filled with stories of incredible courage. Firefighters had rushed into the burning buildings. People had carried injured co-workers down smoke-filled stairwells.

    The wreckage of the towers was massive. It stood 17 stories high and burned for months.

    In the coming weeks, the world would learn everything that had happened on September 11. A group of terrorists called Al Qaeda (ahl KYE-duh) had hijacked four airplanes.

    Al Qaeda followed a hate-filled form of the religion Islam and used terrorism to “punish” countries with different views. Most Muslims—people who follow Islam—don’t agree with Al Qaeda.

    Al Qaeda members crashed two planes into the Twin Towers. They flew another plane into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States military near Washington, D.C.

    The fourth plane was probably headed for the White House, but courageous passengers fought back against the terrorists. That plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

Changed Forever

    The events of September 11, 2001, shaped the world we live in today. The U.S. government has worked hard to fight terrorism and protect against future attacks. New laws have been put into place. Airports and airplanes have been made much safer. 

    Recovering from September 11 has been a slow process for Helaina and many others. Three weeks after the attacks, Helaina returned to school in a temporary location. She and her family continued to live near the World Trade Center. Like so many, she struggled with intense sadness and nightmares.

    With hard work and treatment, Helaina is doing well today. She is now 29 and a journalist. Helaina often writes about people who are changing the world in positive ways. She also wrote a book called After 9/11.

    The events of September 11, 2001, shaped the world we live in today. The U.S. government has worked to protect against future attacks. New laws have been made. Airports and planes are now safer.

    Healing from September 11 has taken Helaina a long time. Three weeks after the attacks, she returned to school in a temporary location. She and her family still lived near the World Trade Center. Like so many, she struggled with sadness and nightmares.

    Helaina worked hard. She got treatment. She is doing well now. She is 29 and a journalist. She writes about people who are doing good in the world. She wrote a book too. It’s called After 9/11.

    The events of September 11, 2001, shaped the world we live in today. The U.S. government has worked hard to combat terrorism and protect against future attacks. New laws have been put into place. Security was tightened at airports and on planes.

    Recovering from September 11 has been a slow process for Helaina and many other people. Three weeks after the attacks, Helaina returned to school in a temporary location. She and her family continued to live in lower Manhattan. Like so many, she struggled with intense sadness and nightmares.

    With hard work and treatment, Helaina is doing well today. She’s now 29 and a journalist. Helaina often writes about people who are creating positive change in the world. She also wrote a book called After 9/11.

Shawn Baldwin/AP Images

Total Destruction  
After the towers fell, brave firefighters searched for survivors. The piles of steel and other wreckage burned for 100 days.

Rebuilding Hope

    The city of New York has also recovered.

    In lower Manhattan, the delicious smell of sizzling meat drifts from food trucks. Tourists snap pictures with selfie sticks. Cyclists weave through traffic. 

    A new skyscraper called the Freedom Tower rises just steps from where the Twin Towers once stood. It is the tallest building in the U.S. Every day, 5,000 men and women go to work there.

    Each year on September 11, two streams of light are beamed from lower Manhattan. They can be seen for miles around. 

    The lights rise into the sky and disappear into the night. They are powerful reminders of what New York lost that day 17 years ago. But they are also a symbol of the city’s strength. 

    New York is a beautiful, brave city that no act of evil can destroy. 

    New York City is doing well too. In lower Manhattan, rich smells rise from food trucks. Tourists snap pictures. People ride bikes.

    A new skyscraper was built near where the Twin Towers once stood. It’s called the Freedom Tower. It’s the tallest building in the U.S. Five thousand people work there.

    Every year on September 11, two streams of light are beamed from lower Manhattan. They can be seen for miles around.

    The lights rise into the sky and fade away. They remind us of what New York lost that day in 2001. But they remind us of the city’s strength too.

    New York is a great city. No act of evil can destroy it.  

    The city of New York has also recovered.

    In lower Manhattan, the delicious aroma of sizzling meat wafts from food trucks. Tourists snap pictures with selfie sticks, and cyclists weave through traffic.

    A new skyscraper called the Freedom Tower rises just steps from where the Twin Towers once stood. It’s the tallest building in the U.S., and 5,000 people work there every day.

    Each year on September 11, two streams of light are beamed from lower Manhattan and can be seen for miles around.

    The lights rise into the sky and disappear into the night. They’re powerful reminders of what New York lost that terrifying day 17 years ago—but they also symbolize the city’s remarkable strength.

    New York is a beautiful, brave city that no act of evil can destroy.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images (World Trade Center); Alex Wong/Getty Images (Pentagon); Panoramic Images/Getty Images (Pennsylvania)

ACTIVITY

Finding Text Evidence

You’ve just read “From Terror to Hope”. Now do this activity to help you better understand the article.

Tip: Text evidence means details in a story that support an answer, or show that it is true.

What to do: Use text evidence—or details from the article—to answer the questions below. We did the first one for you.

You’ve just read “From Terror to Hope”. Now do this activity to help you better understand the article.

Tip: Text evidence means details in a story that support an answer, or show that it is true.

What to do: Use text evidence—or details from the article—to answer the questions below. We did the first one for you.

You’ve just read “From Terror to Hope”. Now do this activity to help you better understand the article.

Tip: Text evidence means details in a story that support an answer, or show that it is true.

What to do: Use text evidence—or details from the article—to answer the questions below. We did the first one for you.

What happened to Helaina in science class on the morning of September 11?   

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Paper and Ash.”

Answer: Helaina felt the floor shake and the shelves rattle. She thought a truck had popped a tire. 

What happened to Helaina in science class on the morning of September 11?   

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Paper and Ash.”

Answer: Helaina felt the floor shake and the shelves rattle. She thought a truck had popped a tire. 

What happened to Helaina in science class on the morning of September 11?   

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Paper and Ash.”

Answer: Helaina felt the floor shake and the shelves rattle. She thought a truck had popped a tire. 

Who helped Helaina get home that day?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Paper and Ash.” 

Who helped Helaina get home that day?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Paper and Ash.” 

Who helped Helaina get home that day?

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Paper and Ash.” 

What did Helaina see on her walk home? How did she feel? 

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Ghosts.”

What did Helaina see on her walk home? How did she feel? 

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Ghosts.”

What did Helaina see on her walk home? How did she feel? 

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Ghosts.”

What did Helaina struggle with after September 11? 

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Changed Forever.”

What did Helaina struggle with after September 11? 

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Changed Forever.”

What did Helaina struggle with after September 11? 

HINT: Look for the answer in the section “Changed Forever.”

Think About It! What do your answers tell you about why Helaina’s life changed after 9/11?

Think About It! What do your answers tell you about why Helaina’s life changed after 9/11?

Think About It! What do your answers tell you about why Helaina’s life changed after 9/11?

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