The Exchange Club of the San Ramon Valley heard the two first-place essays at its Oct. 14 luncheon on the topic, "Tell Your Story - What If You Were There on 9-11?"
The students of the prize-winning essays read them out loud to the luncheon crowd. They were Varshini Sitarama, a fourth-grader at Neil Armstrong Elementary, who was awarded $100 for best elementary school entry; and Gautam Ramesh, an eighth-grader at Diablo Vista Middle School, who received $300 for best essay by a middle or high school student.
"They clearly wrote from their hearts," said Karen Stepper, Exchange Club president.
The contest kicked off at the Exchange Club-sponsored 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony held at Oak Hill Park. Essays were submitted from eight different schools in the school district.
According to Judy Lloyd, essay contest organizer, "The essays were so good that we separated them by elementary, and middle and high school, so that we could give more recognition to these outstanding students," said Judy Lloyd, essay contest organizer.
The winners are:
Middle and high school
1st Place ($300) Gautam Ramesh
2nd Place ($200) Mimi Evans
3rd Place ($100) Spencer Carter
Honorable Mention Trevor Carter
Honorable Mention Jessica Liddy
--B Elementary school winners==
1st Place ($100) Varshini Sitarama
2nd Place ($50) Sachandra Kalvakota
3rd Place ($25) Saicharitha Kalvakota
Essay contest sponsors were Engeo, Pacific Rim Recycling, and Pacific Gas & Electric.
TWO TOP WINNING ESSAYS
What if you were there on 9-11?
By Gautam Ramesh
As I stepped out of Burger King on Liberty and Church, I began to inhale the beautiful morning air. No. "Don't breathe in New York," my boss had said. The air was polluted, as dirty as the Hudson. As weird as his advice had sounded, I knew I should have listened to him that September day. I glanced up at the majestic World Trade Center Towers above me, the pinnacles spearing glorious blue sky. The breathtaking view was impossible to avert my gaze from. As I struggled to look away, I considered walking down Broadway to have quality window shopping during my break. My cameraman, Bob, and I were pushed into downtown by the tide of tourists. We barely had to exert any energy. I laughed. But my laughter did not last long. I had laughed too soon. Then I heard an explosion.
It came at me in waves. The loud impact. The rumble. The moment of silence….and then the screaming started. All around me, awestruck spectators watched as a plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center point blank. Civilians cried out in horror, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" Shaking off an irresistible urge to stand mesmerized, I ran two blocks towards the WTC, fighting against the tide of people. I yelled, "Bob! Are you getting this?" Also frozen in shock, Bob absentmindedly nodded and raised the bulky camera above the ocean of heads. I tried turning on the microphone, but my hand was shaking in utter terror. I tried to say something, but all I heard was a soft croak. I tried to think, but my mind was in complete shock. All the people in the tower… all the innocent lives…. I raised my hands to my face, tears streaming down it like a waterfall. Bob unknowingly turned the camera towards me, but seeing my unkempt face, he turned it back towards the tower. For 20 minutes, I couldn't take my eyes off the tower. But then heard another plane. I heard another crash. And it started all over again.
Terrified screams and cries of panic drowned out the terrible crushing and creaking sounds of the now ravaged South Tower. I motioned for Bob to turn the camera's view back towards me and started speaking:
"The World Trade Center has suffered two plane hits, one on each tower. Fire fighters, EMTs, and First Responders have arrived and are constantly showing up everywhere on the scene. The façade of the South Tower came tumbling down on impact. But now both the North and the South Towers are in critical stages. People in the South Tower are waving out of windows and leaning out of windows for fresh air. And many people are jump…" Eyes wide with horror, I looked up at the falling bodies and covered my mouth. A flames topped both of the towers, covered in a halo of smoke. I got a call on my phone. The boss. Flipping open the phone, I answered. I nodded twice and shut the phone. Slowly, I walked towards Bob and tell him to switch off the camera. This was too horrible to tape. I got another call. And another. And another. I look glance at my phone and turn it off. Then it happened.
The South Tower rumbled and collapsed. Minutes later, so did the North one. Despair grasped the crowd as smoke surged through lower Manhattan. I asked Bob to turn the camera back toward me as I cleared my throat,
"Though none remain inside the parameters around the remains of the once dignified World Trade Center, all of America was impacted by this awful event. Many emergency personnel were killed in the collapse of the Towers, and we are in need of help. A signal has been sent out for anyone with medical experience to help out. But we should be hopeful. Though so much was devastated, America will forever promote life, liberty, and the pursuit happiness."
What if you were there on 9-11?
By Varshini Sitarama
Oh my god!!! If I was in 9/11 I would be so scared. Even if I was not on the twin towers but somewhere else in New York, I would be super shocked. How would you feel if the twin towers collapsed and you were there?
That day, Sep 11th was usual, just like any other day. I was jumping with joy when my dad told me that we are going to Twin towers and statue of Liberty and I need not go to school. Manhattan is one of my favorite places in this whole wide world too. We were in Manhattan very early in the morning as we had to see so many places that day. We first went to twin towers and up we went in the super cool elevator. We reached the 30th floor. I was kind of happy that I skipped the school and I was sitting and playing Sudoku when the first plane hit the tower. There was a loud bang and the whole building shook. Coming from California, the first thing that came to my mind was that it was an earthquake. My dad told me that there was a big accident and so we should leave the place immediately. We heard lots of screams outside our floor and we ran and joined them. I was holding my dad's hand tightly. But he was holding on to me even tighter. I was very scared and did not understand what was happening. There was commotion everywhere. We had started to climb down along with others. Before we reached the 25th floor, we heard a big "boom" and people were screaming and yelling. There was confusion everywhere. I was also crying and I shivered with fright. I could see that my dad was very tense, but he was not screaming.
But when the second plane hit I would have thought something fishy is going on right there. Of course at that time we did not know that it was a plane hit. When we reached 20th floor, we saw fire fighters in front of us. All of us moved to one side so that they can go to the top to help the others. My cheeks turned red, my eyes bulged, my mouth was dry and my feet were shaking. With this, I didn't know how I reached the first level. I was not ready to look back but crazily we were running towards somewhere. We didn't know where we were going or in which direction. Maybe North, maybe South…. My heart skipped many a beat.
We ran for 5 – 10 mintues and then stopped to see what happened. A puff of smoke covered the sky. That huge building collapsed right in front of my eyes. I didn't have time to even think if it was possible for such a huge building to fall down.
I was there and I survived it. It was something I would always remember, but I will always know it wasn't a happy moment for practically anybody. I think it was just plain wrong to crash the twin towers. I feel very, very sad for everybody who was in the twin towers when it collapsed. Oh my god! I could almost cry any time even thinking of what happened that day. Knowing now that it was the act of some bad guys, I still wonder how they can even think of doing what they did.