Every year, I tell myself that I’m not going to write about it. And every year, I can’t help myself. Such a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Such a personal moment for me.
I was on my way to work. Running late. Listening to my favorite rock station. The rock jocks were known to be a bit crude, a bit inappropriate. I switched them on just as they were describing the first plane going into the towers. I thought, “This is a cruel joke. The station is definitely getting a letter!’ Then, when one of the disc jockey’s voices cracked and I could almost hear her tears, I knew it was real.
I sat at work. Trying to keep our students calm. Wanting to take my daughter out of class just a few buildings away and bring her home. But having to carry on. The administration wanted us to plug away, as usual. Distract the students. But how could we? We were a laptop school. Students were sneaking windows open to catch a glimpse on CNN.
Soon, students were being taken out of school. Parents confirming my initial instinct. We had a congressman’s son in class. Another boy’s aunt worked at the Pentagon. Countless parents traveled by air for business.
And then it hit. My brother-in-law worked in Detroit. He was an agent in Federal Law Enforcement. Because of his interrogation skills and expertise with the Middle East. My other sister, who flies twice weekly for business. Where is she? I sneak a call to my family. Yes, Henry has been called into work downtown. But so far, everything is okay. Yes, my other sister had been on her way to D.C. but her plane had been grounded.
My family was safe.
But so many others were not.
Never, never, never forget.
(Feel free to share your “Where Were You On 9/11” moment in the comment section below.)
Am I the only one out there who is just a wee bit queasy with the celebration of Osama bin Laden’s death?
Don’t get me wrong. I am glad that the world is rid of the mastermind behind countless terrorist attacks, most of all 9/11. Captured and killed? From what I’ve read of the reports, his death seemed necessary. But to read the headline “Bin Laden’s Demise: US Rejoices After A Decade”?
I’m not rejoicing.
Bin Laden’s death does not bring back our friends and family who perished ten years ago or since. Bin Laden’s death will not stop al-Qaida. Bin Laden’s death does not bring closure for anyone who lost a loved one through a terrorist act.
Bin Laden was a loathsome man. He spread hate. He celebrated violence. He encouraged evil. I am thankful that the world population is minus one diabolic villan. But there is still hate, violence and evil in the world without bin Laden.
I don’t think my initial reaction to the celebrations erupting all over America and the world is necessarily Christian. It’s a reaction born of compassion for a human soul and an aversion to being the final judge of anyone’s fate.
But I still wrestle with my satisfaction that bin Laden got what was coming to him. I admit that I am grateful for our US troops and for what the rest of the world has contributed to flushing out evil and stopping it in its tracks.
There is a man in Florida. He happens to be a pastor of a very small church. Tiny. As in, 35 members. And he has received lots of press, world-wide, about the little stunt he was supposed to pull tomorrow.
A teeny, tiny church, getting loads and loads of attention because on 9/11 they planned to burn a bunch of Qurans. Evangelical radicalism at it’s finest.
This reminded me of a bumper sticker I saw and loved.
This is America. He has every right to his opinion. He has every right to preach his opinion to his congregation. He has every right to hate whomever he wants to hate and he can ignore teachings he disagrees with.
And I have every right to tune him out. And so do you.
Let’s ignore the teeny, tiny, squeaky wheel in Florida. I’m asking you to change the channel any time his story or any other story that promotes hatred comes on the telly. Switch the station if you hear someone talking about hate on the radio. Change the subject if you hear someone else speaking ill of others.
This teeny, tiny pastor has a right to his opinion and we have a right to not give a flip what he thinks.
Especially on a day when we should be honoring the fallen heroes of that day. A day when we should be praying for a greater understanding of our fellow neighbors. Praying for tolerance and peace, world-wide. Promoting constructive change and acceptance of differences. Living proudly, as positive examples to our children.
I’ll even give you something else to watch instead.
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.