At a high school in Florida, students watched the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold on live TV. When the second hijacked airliner slammed into the World Trade Center’s south tower, the class watched in stunned disbelief. But one student, a classmate recalled, “started jumping up-and-down cheering on the terrorist.”
That was sophomore Omar Mateen, according to one of the accounts from Martin County High School remembering 9/11 and the reaction by the student who, nearly 15 years later, would carry out the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
In an interview, Robert Zirkle, then a freshman at the Martin County school, said he saw Mateen excited and making fun of how America was being attacked on 9/11. “He was making plane noises on the bus, acting like he was running into a building,” Zirkle recalled. “I don’t really know if he was doing it because he was being taught some of that stuff at home or just doing it for attention because he didn’t have a lot of friends.”
“Before 9/11 happened, we were pretty straight. We all rode the same bus. We weren’t really close friends, but friends at least a little,” he added, noting that Mateen attended the Spectrum Alternative School, a separate campus in Stuart for students with poor grades or behavioral issues.