As The Smoke Rises…

Sahuaro Teacher Survives Two Terrorist Attacks


SHS The Paper Cut

Mr. Bellows (survivor) working at his desk in his classroom

Alyssa Urff, Sahuaro News Editor

The phone rings. “A plane just crashed into your work building,” your mom tells you with a shaky, tear-filled voice.

On your day off after having a medical procedure, your mind starts to whirl and wonder What exactly is going on?? Maybe it was one of the private Cessna Skyhawks that fly around the building. I mean the Twin Towers are the tallest in New York. It was probably just an accident but What’s going on? As you look out your window, all you see is dark smoke come up from the New York City skyline.

A couple of hours later, you realize that it was not an accident, but the most devastating terrorist attack in America.

While this story may seem like something that could never happen to you, it’s a reality for a fellow Cougar here at Sahuaro. Special Education teacher, David Bellows, has not only survived one – but two terrorist attacks – the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing and 2001 September 11 attacks.

During the first attack on February 26, 1993, Mr. Bellows was working as a broker in Tower 1 on the 105th floor. It was a casual workday for him until a terrorist drove a Ryder Truck into a parking garage below the building with a 1,200 pound bomb inside. While the bomb was intended to make the whole building tumble down, it only claimed 6 lives yet injured over 1,000 others. “Smoke started going through the entire building. Even on the 105th floor, the smoke filled the entire room. We started evacuating the building. Since we couldn’t use the elevators, we had to avoid the smoke and crawl down over 105 flights of stairs to get to safety. Firefighters running up the staircases would stop and try to give us oxygen. The entire time, we had no idea what was going on. I didn’t know any of the people that passed but may their souls rest in peace,” says Mr. Bellows, who was born and raised in Brooklyn and still maintains a heavy New York accent.

Source: 9/11 Memorial Museum

Eight years later, al-Qaeda , an Islamic Terrorist Group, hijacked 4 planes and attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon taking the lives of 2,997 Americans and forever altering Americans’ perceptions of safety. Mr. Bellows’ building where he worked (Tower 1) was the first building to get hit. Mr. Bellows was lucky enough to call in sick that day after having a medical procedure.

While he didn’t suffer from any physical injury, 9/11 did take an emotional toll on him. He remembers calling into work and hearing his boss’ voice for the last time. He remembers all the college students who were just starting and had been there for a couple of months or weeks. He remembers all the coworkers who he was friends with and would talk to everyday. “God bless all of them and their families,”Mr. Bellows quietly remarks.

While talking about the people who lost their lives that day, he brought up a website,, that was made as a tribute. On the website, you’ll find comments, messages, and remembrances left for every person.  One of the companies, Cantor Fitzgerald Co., helped make the website, offering jobs and refuge after the attack. Mr. Bellows said, “Fitzgerald Co. was huge in helping everyone affected including me.  They would send clean up efforts and they started the idea for the tribute.”

While the nation strengthened and came together after the attack, there was personal healing that needed to happen for Mr. Bellows. “I used to not be able to talk about the event for at least 10 years. I would just breakdown.” He offered advice for anyone going through or has dealt with a tragedy, “Seek counseling, go through the process of grief, with time and professional help, you will slowly heal and come to terms.” He also added, “I know I will never completely heal from the tragedy, but every day is a new day. Don’t sweat the small stuff, live lightly, don’t take yourself too seriously.”

18 years has passed and he is now in Tucson with his love, who he refers to as his “beautiful wife”. “My wife and I have always talked about getting out of New York. I came out here and worked with a family member. My wife then came out to Tucson about a year later and was teaching. She asked if I could be an aide.” From an aide to a teacher, Mr. Bellows just graduated last fall from Grand Canyon University with his Masters degree!

As something as devastating as the experiences Mr. Bellows had, his story is proof that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. As Mr. Bellows said,”You never know if you’re going to get another tomorrow, live your life to the fullest and appreciate what you have.”