On the morning of September 11, 2001, the High School for Leadership and Public Service just south of the World Trade Center was a designated polling station for the city’s primary election. While Principal Ada Dolch was in the lobby greeting students and local residents, she heard an enormous boom, learning moments later that an airplane had hit one of the Twin Towers.
Principal Dolch used her walkie-talkie to communicate with teachers on the school’s upper floors, where students could see flames engulfing the North Tower. As school safety officers relayed information from the police, a second plane hit the South Tower, and Dolch initiated a building-wide evacuation. She was forced to jettison existing emergency plans that called for regrouping closer to the World Trade Center and instead guided approximately 600 students and staff southward to safety in Battery Park.
Fulfilling her professional responsibility to students, staff, and voters, Dolch could not yet address a private worry: the welfare of her sister, Wendy Alice Rosario Wakeford
, who worked on the 105th floor of the North Tower. She would soon learn that her sister did not survive.