Orlando assistant principal reflects on losing father in Sept. 11 terror attacks

Liberty Middle School administrator keeps father's memory alive 18 years later

ORLANDO, Fla. – Every Sept. 11, Andrew Schwartz walks into Liberty Middle school in Orlando and talks to students about the day his life changed. 

"It's the day that I lost my father, but it's also the day that changed my whole life in more ways than I would've probably realized," Schwartz said.

He was 20 years old at the time and was a firefighter and paramedic.  

"I wasn't home when this happened. If I was, then I probably would've been there, too," Schwartz said.

The father of two had gone away to a Pennsylvania college for nursing. He on campus when he learned about the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"I remember going back to the dorm room and as I turned on the TV, the buildings came down," Schwartz said. "I remember, we were sitting watching TV and all of a sudden my sister and one of my best friends at the time walked through the door of my dorm room and said, 'You need to come home.'"

On Sept. 11, 2001, Schwartz's father, who was an EMT, went to Manhattan to help the victims of the attack on the Twin Towers.

"My dad, unfortunately, went there to help people and didn't make it out. He didn't come home," Schwartz said.

It was a day that changed his life 18 years ago. He moved to Florida in 2003 and became a teacher. 

Today, he's the assistant principal for Liberty Middle School in Orlando but since 2007, he's been sharing his experience with students to give them a better understanding of how the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the way we live today. 

"There are certain things in their day-to-day life that are different now as a result of what happened 18 years ago that to them is just normal," Schwartz said.

During his talks, he brings along a piece of history from that day, a piece of steel that's like a treasure to him. The index card size piece of rubble is from one of the towers of the World Trade Center. 

"It kind of gets you thinking of one: the enormity of the size of the buildings but even deeper than that, just the size of the event itself. That this little piece of metal is so heavy that that's the weight of everything," Schwartz said. 

The piece of steel is a symbol of the worst attack on America and it's helping keep history alive. 

"Sharing it and doing something with the kids, with the staff or anybody, it's just my way of let's say grieving or coping with it. It's also probably one of my most prized possessions just because it allows me to not forget but then it also is a talking point that's not always a somber one."

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