MANCHESTER – Scott Phair turned away from the microphone and cried after addressing students and staff at an all-school assembly Sept. 11, 2001.
“It was a sense of loss and profound sadness that I wasn’t able to identify,” said Phair, then a first-year principal at Waterville Senior High School.
Earlier that bright, sunny morning, hijackers had flown planes into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
Phair thought it would be best to provide the school community with as much factual information as was available at the time.
“Students and staff, everybody … was stunned. I knew that the world was going to change on that day,” said Phair, now director of Capital Area Technical Center in Augusta and a rafting guide.
Phair consulted with guidance staff before sending students to their homerooms so they could talk, be consoled or call relatives on cellphones.
“There were about 700 kids at the high school at that time and we were trying to understand the best way to help as many of them as possible,” said Phair. “We were still trying to understand what had happened and there was also a sense that (the attacks) might not be over. It was one of the most difficult days I have spent as a school administrator.”
Educators, said Phair, are trained to be able to help students cope with a number of situations, but Sept. 11 was beyond the scope of any disasters he had encountered.
“It was going to have a very dire impact on the U.S. and the world,” said Phair. “I thought it was going to be a defining event for that generation and it was going to have awful unprecedented, awful consequences. It’s a big beautiful world and I thought this might be one more obstacle to them being able to have experiences that I was lucky enough to have.”
For Phair, one of those experiences was serving in the Peace Corps in Afghanistan in 1975-76.
He taught English to airline flight attendants.
“The fellow (Peace Corps volunteer) before me was from Macon, Ga., and (at first the Afghan flight attendants) didn’t think I was speaking English,” he laughed.
Phair, 59, said the people he met and befriended in Afghanistan were wonderful and of high character.
And he said the Afghanistan he knew doesn’t resemble the country vilified as a training ground for terrorists.
“The average person there wants no more to do with the Taliban than the average person here wants anything to do with the Ku Klux Klan,” Phair said.
“The saddest part of all, looking at the results of 9/11, if you ask me, is that there are more terrorists now than there were in September of 2001.”
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Beth Staples can be contacted at 861-9252 or at: