Santiago recalls witnessing 9/11 attacks

Santiago recalls witnessing 9/11 attacks

CHICAGO -- Hector Santiago was a 13-year-old, eighth-grader at Luis Munoz Marin Middle School in Newark, N.J., sitting in Ms. Foster's class on Sept. 11, 2001, when life changed.

When two planes hit the World Trade Center Towers, killing close to 3,000 people, Santiago could see the towers go up in smoke from his classroom, but the emotional reaction of his teacher became more vividly etched in his memory.

"My teacher went crazy because her son worked in the World Trade Center," Santiago said. "She ran out of the classroom when she heard the news, and another teacher grabbed her and said, 'Hey, you are fine.'"

The White Sox took part in Major League Baseball's National Day of Remembrance on Tuesday, paying tribute to first responders. There was a special pregame ceremony honoring the men and women of the United States armed forces and their families, along with a parade for members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America led by Windell Middlebrooks, the Miller High Life Deliveryman.

Rick Kolomay threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches. The fire chief from Carol Stream, Ill., helped assemble a group of more than 50 firefighters from the Chicago area after witnessing the 9/11 attacks and took "Team Chicago" immediately to New York and began working on the search and rescue operations at the World Trade Center upon their arrival on Sept. 12. They continued to support their FDNY brothers over the ensuing five days.

Santiago still keeps in touch with his eighth-grade teacher, having just talked to her recently. Her son actually fell asleep on the train that day and never made it into work.

"We saw that from our classroom, and that was just crazy," Santiago said. "We had staff come in and said, 'A plane accidentally crashed into the World Trade Center.' We didn't know what was going on, but a few minutes later another one hit.

"That's when they said they were evacuating the schools and we all went home. We didn't know what happened after that until we saw it on the news."