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.