Ten years ago today, I was in my classroom, teaching at-risk students. It was our second year in our brand-new high school building. We were three weeks into first quarter, and spirits were high.
The day started as usual at 8:12 a.m. with first bell. Around 8:30 CDT, our counselor showed up at my door. She called me out and told me that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, that it did not appear to be an accident, and to keep the students calm. The office personnel and central office were monitoring the situation. Parents were calling the school asking what we were going to do.
Kids are not stupid. They could tell something was up. We didn't have television in any classrooms. Streaming video was not an option. I had a computer that used Windows 3.1, with no internet connection. Students had to rely on the teachers for information. And I was not supposed to discuss it.
Secrets are not kept well at school. By the end of first hour, several students from various classes had wangled restroom permission, and used the respite from the watchful eye of the classroom teacher to check their cell phones. Cell phones which, no doubt, had been vibrating to beat the band, with parents seeing this event unfold from home, and needing confirmation that all was well with Junior. Those kids went back to class and told other kids. By second hour, they were asking teachers what was going on. Their direct questions were answered. We assured them that we were all looking out for their safety. Parents started to arrive to check out their kids and take them home.
The civics classes went to the library to watch the coverage on television. The rest of us muddled on. Students coming from civics told us the current status. We went through the motions of a regular lesson. A stream of parents lined up out front. Kids were nervous.
After lunch, I had to drive to the middle school for my afternoon classes. The students there were calm. This age really relies on teachers to set their course, to show them how to act. They don't try to put on a front to show how cool, how bad, how unconcerned they are in a crisis. Genius was in first grade. I was fairly certain his day would go on as usual. I couldn't imagine the elementary turning on their TVs. The Pony was only three, at daycare in another town. So I didn't worry about him and his under-five companions.
I watched the news coverage into the night. For weeks, I had trouble sleeping. The sound of a plane put my nerves on edge. Students hearing a plane would ask me to look out and see what kind, and how close. I observed the contrails in the sky. Were they the same direction as this time every other day? My home is apparently on the flight path for fighter jet training out of Scott Air Force Base. The skies were quite active. Some of those guys fly pretty low. But it was fascinating to watch them twist and evade and roar back and forth over my roof.
The tragedy still upsets me. I can't read the newly-released phone calls from people on Flight 93. I can't watch the memorials. I watched the Nicolas Cage/Maria Bello movie, World Trade Center, about a year after it came out. I won't watch it again. Last night, I saw the end of Flight 93. I won't watch it again, either. I can't. I can't think of the people trapped on the roof of the World Trade Center. Of those who jumped. Or those inside when it collapsed.
I am naturally suspicious, from being a teacher all my life. I am on the lookout for behavior that is just a little off. I avoid crowds. I would never go to a national landmark or a sporting event or a parade or a casino on a major holiday. Or 9/11. I am perhaps less tolerant of people than I would have been pre 9/11. It's not a rainbow-and-unicorn world. No matter how much we want to make it all go away, and treat everybody equally to show how politically correct we are, to do so will one day make us a laughingstock to those hell-bent on harming us. A laughingstock, or dead.
That's my opinion. You are each welcome to yours.