I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since 9/11. When I realized that the anniversary was coming up, I thought it had been five years, but no, it’s ten. No way. Even though it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since the attack, it also feels like it was a lifetime ago.
It was before I had kids, before I was married, even before Geric and I had started dating. It was my first year teaching. It was my first month teaching, and I had a group of 20 adorable first graders. I was living on a dairy and I was late for work. I rushed getting ready and rushed to my car where I turned on a CD. When I walked through the teacher’s lounge I saw a small white board that said something about a plane crash and I thought, That’s weird. Why did someone write about a plane crash on the white board?
I got to my classroom and started getting stuff ready for the day when the principal called all the teachers back into the lounge. People were crying and it was heavy, and I felt really stupid that I had no idea what was going on, and I wasn’t about to ask. I remember our principal said that it’s okay to talk about the attack with the older kids and even to turn on the TV, but not to get too into it with the little guys, because they might get scared and probably wouldn’t understand. I think we had a “moment of silence” and then we all went back to our classrooms where I turned on cnn.com and read about what had happened.
Tears flowed as I saw images of the twin towers. More tears as I saw people jumping out of the buildings, thinking how frightened they must have been in order to make that choice. More tears thinking about the families that were losing loved ones they thought were just traveling in a plane, or going to work.
And then the bell rang.
And I had to be a teacher for 8 hours.
Recess and lunch were a break to sit in the lounge in silence as we watched the news coverage, stunned. We were not invincible.
When school was over I left to go back to my house, but I immediately called my mom and dad and went to their house. I remember watching Peter Jennings getting choked up talking about being with our families during this time, and that is all I wanted to do. I remember the feeling of seeing George W. Bush talking to the nation and feeling kind of like a father was comforting his children. I suddenly felt closer to him, like he was going to protect us from the bad guys.
I went to my church where a small group of people had gathered to pray. We broke off into even smaller groups and I remember crying as I prayed for wisdom in how to explain this to my 20 little first graders the next day. Because there is no way to explain this. It was terrible and unthinkable and there is no way of explaining it that makes sense or makes you feel safe.
Then the world changed, for a little bit. We all put flags in our car windows. We donated to the red cross. We were all a little friendlier at the grocery store. We felt a bond. We were Americans. We had been attacked and we needed to come together, not as democrats and republicans, but as Americans.
Stories started flooding in. Stories about cell phone calls from airplanes, cell phone calls from the twin towers, people making it out just in time, firefighters running back in knowing they were never coming back out, missing loved ones, missing children, children who lost a parent, wives who had lost husbands, husbands who had lost wives. It was the epitome of sadness. Grief blanketed the nation.
Over time, the stories became less frequent, our car flags became so raggedy that they were removed, we started giving snarky looks to people who cut in line at the grocery store, people remembered they were conservatives and liberals, and we went on with our lives. Unfortunately. I think it happens with every tragedy. There’s a time of grieving, but for the most part, we are able to move on to the way things were.
Today, however, we remember. We remember the heroes that ran back into the buildings, or who overtook the bad guys after a quick “Let’s roll!”, or the children who never met a parent. We remember a tragedy and we remember how we all came together
as ONE nation under God.
Ten years later.
Where were you ten years ago?