Overcome

I know there are going to be a lot of posts like this today. Forgive me for adding to the surplus. But I’ve never written this down before and I think of this event and how it applies to my teaching career often, especially today.

In my parent’s generation everyone knows where they were when JFK was assasinated. My generation knows exactly what they were doing when 9/11 happened.

I was driving to class. The radio set to my favorite alternative rock station. They cut into the song they were playing and began discussing what was happening in New York. They didn’t always have the best taste with their jokes and that’s exactly what I thought this was. A joke. A really BAD joke. I actually stopped to think: wait, is this April Fool’s Day? No. It’s September. This is in such poor taste. I’m writing the station. And then the female disc jockey started to cry. I knew it was real and I was stunned.

I raced to my classroom and plugged in my laptop. Yes. It was true. My students started filing into class. The news had already spread. We were a “laptop” school. Every student had their own. They were racing in to plug in their laptops. Every one worked together. One student starting organizing which news sites each student would scan, looking for the most up to date information. I didn’t stop it. I let it unfold. They worked together trying to understand what was going on.

 Then it started to sink in. One student’s dad was a pilot. Another’s uncle was a congressman. Another had an aunt that worked at the Pentagon. Many had family that worked or lived in NYC. It hit me. My sister traveled for a living.  Students began asking permission to use their cell phones to call home. I snuck a call to my sister. Her plane had been grounded. She was stuck in Milwaukee. But she was safe.

The administration stepped in and asked that everyone shut down their computers. The information coming in was too disturbing. It was a very organized chaos but  parents began picking up their kids from school early. Our school was PreK – 12. My daughter was just two buildings away and all I wanted to do was hold her. But I had to stay with my students that were left.

Later that night, after we put our daughter to bed my husband and I stood on our deck outside, talking. Or not talking. We were still in shock. But the thing I remember most about that night was how eerie and quiet and still our city was. We couldn’t hear the usual planes or trains. It was still relatively early and no cars were going down our usually busy street.

I’m glad I missed much of the video coverage that later was edited. Falling bodies. Thuds on top of cars and pavement. I watched it later, years later in a documentary. I was able to handle it better then.

To handle this great tragedy my students came up with a brilliant idea. We had just had a discussion how certain songs trigger memories. They decided to create a cd to memorialize 9/11. Each student chose a song that reminded them of 9/11. Songs like: In a New York Minute, I Believe, Everybody Hurts, I Will Remember You, Only in America, Imagine. They worked after school creating cd covers, burning the cds for each student to take home. It was an amazing, healing project. I still have those cds. And I play them every year at about this time. To remember the fallen. To remember those who survived. To remember my sensitive, thoughtful, students. To remember the amazing heroes that were born that day.

So many people criticize our teenagers as self absorbed. Selfish. But in my kids I saw vulnerable, sensitive, caring young people. And in 2001 they channeled that energy and created something truly worth cherishing. I dedicate this post to them.

A song that has stood out for me is posted below. I never imagined I would witness such tragedy in my lifetime. I had always felt so safe in my country. I was so thankful that I didn’t live anywhere else. But on 9/11, I was overcome with so much fear, sadness. Simply overcome.

9 Comments

Filed under How We Roll, Music, Soapbox, Teaching

9 responses to “Overcome

  1. eastkentuckygal

    I will never forget that day either. I was also in the classroom. A teacher beside me came to my door and told me to turn on our TV. He said the World Trade Center had been bombed. I had know idea what he was talking about until I turned on the TV… the rest of the day was filled with tears, explaining, and hard questions. Our children are compassionate. They are still human after all.

  2. Another great post! I was in class (College) when it happened. The College school’s new building had a mostly glass facade, and we weren’t far from where 9/11 happened, so you could see the streams of smoke making their way downwind through the streets and alleys from high up on our class windows as you looked down.

    Cellphones obviously didn’t work that day, so contact was pretty much impossible. We did find out from another student what was happening and the Plasma TVs in the hallway streamed the news. Everything was obviously canceled that they, and I made my way to the UWS to meet my mom (a 40 block trek that was very grueling).

    As you looked backed you could see what was happening behind you (even if in the distance), and I’ll to this day never forget the fear I had.

    We later found out we had lost a cousin in the Pentagon attack who was transferred there to that wing of the building not too long after the attacks.

  3. I was alone trying to catch up on some much needed sleep. The phone rang and woke me up. I didn’t sleep again for 2 days.

    Your students sound great and handled it with maturity. So did you.

  4. Thanks for this post. This incident…it is still SO raw and so recent. Let’s hope it’ll be the last of such tragedies.

    I was also in NoVA when it happened…in fact, I had JUST moved to the U.S. I saw plenty of students calling up their parents in a frenzy and panic. It was horrible.

  5. What a beautiful tribute!! You brought tears to my eyes. You must be a wonderful teacher to have had such an impact on those teens, I would love an update on what they are doing now. The video you shared was perfect. Thanks for the post.

    Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest

  6. That was a wonderful post. That was an amazing project.
    I was in college in CA, so I was crashing on a coach when the roommate’s mother called in a panic. I switched on the TV, just missing the second crash. I remember walking to school hearing only the TVs, no children playing, no radios, no Latin salsa. Just the deadening sound of news.
    Unlike your wonderful students, I spent the next months arguing with my classmates about the stupidity of vengence.

  7. Once again, you found words to express this feeling in my chest that I couldn’t: “Simply overcome.”

  8. Wow! Thank you for reading my post and drawing me to this one. I can’t imagine having to have been a teacher on that horrible day. I am in awe at the maturity and compassion demonstrated by your students. Even in the midst of a tragedy, they were able to stand together and create something wonderful. A beautiful post.

    P.S. Is it a bad thing that at the beginning of this post all I could think about was how amazing it was that your students all had laptops? I guess that is what budget cuts have done to me. I can’t even find a computer that works in my school sometimes.

    • It was a private school and we were one of the first in the state to begin a laptop program. I’m not sure how a public school could afford it without some serious grant money or corporate donations.

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