Uncommon Sense, Uncommon Courage: How the New York City School System, Its Teachers, Leadership and Students Responded to the Terror of September 11

Degnan, Anne Lee; Thomas, Gregory A.; Markenson, David; Song, Yumie; Fuller, Elizabeth J.; Redlener, Irwin E.

Eight public schools are situated within a quarter mile of Ground Zero with 9,000 students ranging in ages from three to eighteen years – grammar, middle and high schools. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 in the midst of chaos and a relentless unfolding of tragedy, professionals of the Board of Education safely evacuated all 9,000 students without injury. They also ensured that all 1.1 million school children, in every part of the city got home safely, reunited with family and loved ones. They did this as transportation around the City was halted, subways, roads, bridges were closed, and airspace over the United States was shutdown except to military flights. This report is the articulation of a truly effective reaction by a complex organization. Some would label it as luck or extraordinary good fortune. In fact, when all the evidence is finally in, this report argues that the Board of Education’s handling of the crisis presented by 9/11, comprised its “shining moment” – where leadership and courage were manifest and where the paramount objective “get our kids home safe” made the difference between life and death.

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National Center for Disaster Preparedness
National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University
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January 2, 2013