Ten years ago I was teaching fourth grade in Howard County, Maryland. My oldest daughter, Emily was also at that school working in the preschool special education class for her off term of her junior year of college. My daughter, Sarah was a sophomore in high school and Dan was working in Baltimore.
That morning started like any morning at school with the preparations and set up, students coming in, getting settled, copying homework, having their homework checked, settling into the routine which was still fairly new to them since school had just started at the end of August. I began that day oblivious to what was occurring. Staff who had no homeroom responsibilities came around and drew homeroom teachers aside to tell us the devastating news. It was unfathomable and I went on uncomprehending the magnitude of what they described to me. No word of the events of that morning were communicated to the students from the school administration. They were left in the dark.
Shortly after hearing the news, an exodus began from my class. Parents were coming to the front office as they heard the news and signing their child out of school for early dismissal. As more and more students were told they were going home early, other students started asking what was going on. We had been told not to tell any students about what was transpiring outside their school world and if they asked to say their parents would tell them. I imagine that made them a bit more scared, curious and frustrated with us as more and more of their classmates departed. They knew now it was something serious when more than half their classmates eventually departed for the day. I don't have any recollection as to how many remained and what we told them for the rest of that day or what we did with them. I imagine I went through the motions of teaching, but can't recall any of that.
When I did get a break later in the morning after taking students to music or PE or art, my first wish was to see and hold my daughter, Emily. She had of course heard and probably seen the scenes unfolding on the TV before I had. There was no way to reach Sarah at school and if I attempted to call Dan I don't recall, but with the phone lines tied up I imagine I wouldn't have been successful.
For the rest of that day, and in the days that followed I was numb. I cried to and from school and cry now recalling that horrible devastation and loss of life. It was the personal stories that tore me up and still do of family members searching and searching for loved ones. The scenes of the twin towers being hit and crumbling were shown over
and over and I watched trying to understand how could that happen. The stories of the heroism where in attempting to save lives, the heroes and heroines gave their lives. The clean up that followed that tried to bring closure and the body count that climbed and climbed. I watched and listened and grieved.
For those who ask, did 9/11 change our lives? Yes, it did in so many ways but one tops the list: we went to war and we are still at war. But was that the right response? Has that made our lives safer, better? We will never know.
Those students in that 4th grade class are now 19 years old, in college
or working. What do they remember from that day? What do you
remember? Let us all remember always.