Orlando shooting: Omar Mateen celebrated 9/11 as a schoolboy, claim classmates
'Omar was saying some really rude stuff. Stuff like, "That's what America deserves."'
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.
The recollections of Mateen's actions could not be independently verified, and the memories could be clouded by the years that have passed. But they appear to offer yet another stitch in the wider tapestry of Mateen's life and views before Sunday's rampage, which included his pledge of loyalty to the Islamic State during a call to police during the standoff .
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."