It was my first year of teaching in Atlanta, GA, and I remember every single moment of that day. I’m sure most of us do. My students were at P.E. and one of my colleagues had her T.V. on while we gathered in her room to finish planning for the day. I happened to be looking at the T.V. while the news broke in with the replay of the first plane hitting the first tower. And then we all stood there, dumbfounded, while the second plane hit the second tower.
Our faculty was notified via email about what had happened, but we were asked not to say anything to our students. I remember being in such a fog, trying to act like everything was normal, and yet wondering if it really was. I also remember parents racing into our classrooms and pulling their kids out of school all throughout the day. This was tough, because the kids who were left were full of questions–questions I was instructed not to answer. As if I could, anyway…
It was an emotionally exhausting day. When I got home, all I wanted to do was go to bed. But I was sucked in to the media’s coverage of what had happened. So I watched, and got answers… Or at least, the answers that the media wanted to offer.
When I got back to work the next morning, I discovered that one of my student’s fathers had been in Manhattan, doing business in one of the World Trade Center towers. And that her family was now faced with life without him. She didn’t return to school for almost 3 weeks, and in those 3 weeks many of my students came to school full of questions and sometimes tears. I felt so ill-equipped to handle so much of what I was being forced to deal with. Being a first-year teacher, I had barely figured out how I wanted to deal with classroom management, let alone a tragedy such as this! This was something they could never have prepared me for in college.
But in the weeks and months that followed–in between math, science and language arts–my students asked a lot of good questions. We had some good discussions and wrote a lot of letters for the families of those who had lost loved ones. And we made cards and loved on our fellow student who had lost her father. It gave us a real-life and relevant example of why compassion and understanding are necessary, even when we can’t understand the reasons behind people’s motives.
Now it’s 10 years later and in many ways it still feels like it was yesterday. I guess that’s why it still evokes such a visceral response from most people. I’m guessing that’s the response most tragedies cause. And so like many across the country today, I remember those who lost their lives, and those who lost loved ones in the 9.11 attacks.