Ten years. It seems very hard to believe that much time has passed and the country has changed so dramatically – and not for the better. The history person inside of me has had a difficult time adjusting to the changes over these last ten years, and most times I cringe when I hear of some new law or policy designed to keep us “safer.” I thought in 1991 when the Berlin Wall came down that I would no longer need to think about where to hide in my house to be safe from attack.
Yet on the Thursday after the attack, September 13, my husband and I sat at the dining room table, making evacuation plans and preparations in the light of not knowing anything. He would remain in the house, and I would be on the first school bus out of our school that came to my neighborhood. We wouldn’t have to worry about someone on the road trying to find the other. We would use this plan to be together.
Being a teacher during events like these (and like the shootings in Tucson) is very difficult. We are a different type of first responder. We’re the ones who have to try to calm and explain what just happened and why. I just wanted to stay home and watch the television and cry in horror. But I had students coming. From 6 AM when I first turned on the computer to 7:15 when I left for school, after sitting in disbelief as a building actually collapsed, I wondered what we would be facing and what we would be saying to kids.
Adolescents want to know the “whys” of events. There was no way there would be science lessons that day. The kids wanted to be at home with their parents. They wanted to watch television. They wanted to know who hated us so much. They wanted to know how buildings could just fall down. On the playground at lunch that day they ran for cover when an Air Force plane flew over the city. I went home drained, wanting to know more about what had happened, wanting to hold my husband, wanting to cry. Any teacher who is good knows what days are like when you try to help kids make sense of a tragedy – when there’s nothing that makes sense to begin with.
My parents’ generation had Pearl Harbor. My generation had President Kennedy and now the Twin Towers. I watched and listened as events unfolded over the next couple of weeks. I read a variety of articles about the causes. I was called un-American by family members because I wouldn’t say Freedom fries, or I disagreed with Bush’s call to go shopping to maintain normalcy. I looked at all the missed opportunities we had to make a new way in this crazy world to honor those who had fallen.
We all cried for the dead. The children on those planes, the people in the upper floors of the Towers, folks on the hijacked planes making their last phone calls. Thinking about the people manning the 911 system in NYC and what those three hours must have been like for them. And each hour that went by on that day brought more and more horror to us.
I won’t be watching memorial shows today; those images are forever in my mind. I’ll spend the day thinking about the things we each can do to make this world safer. It doesn’t involve guns and wars and oil and seeing who has the most. It’s about knowing where we’ve come from, who we want to be as a people, and how all of us around this planet can come together to build a safer world before it’s too late.
It was a horrible day.
I leave you with a few interesting views about those events. If you choose to comment, please remember that our Founding Fathers (about as “American” as you can get…) believed in civil discourse and discussion and compromise. There is room for everyone at the world table.