As the 10th anniversary of 9-11 approaches, my school is preparing to remember the anniversary of the darkest day in history of our current generation. Several of us have put together resources and activities, all the while realizing that most of the students in our school were not alive on September 11. 2001, and the ones who were, are too young to remember. As educators, it is our responsibility to educate future generations and it would be irresponsible of us, not to teach our students about just what happened on that day, while remaining sensitive to just how much we share with them, as the details are very graphic and horrifying.
This week I am going to TRY and blog every day so I can share what we are doing with our students at my school to share the anniversary. Notice I said TRY!!! One of the things we realized as we began to plan for these activities, is as I mentioned before, most of our students were either too young to remember or had not been born yet, on September 11, 2001. Taking this idea from one of our local museums, the Upcountry History Museum (http://www.upcountryhistory.org/) , one of the things we decided to do was have our teachers write about where they were on that day, to share the experience with our students. We will display this writing in our main downstairs hallway that all the students pass through 2-3 times a day.
So here is my story….
Let me begin by saying that I was not a teacher on September 11, 2001. In fact, I was not even thinking about being a teacher at the time… I was working as a training manager for a software company about 30 miles outside ofWashington,DCinReston,VA.That morning began like every other day. I dropped my 11 month old son off at the babysitters and began my 45 minute commute toRestonfrom my home in Prince William Co., VA. My husband was working his regular shift as a deputy sheriff in nearbyFairfax,VA.
Shortly after I arrived at work, I headed into a meeting and that is where I was when American Airlines Flight 11 flew into theWorldTradeCenterat 8:59am. My meeting ended a few minutes after 9am, and shortly after I returned to my office, a co-worker came by and said a plane had hit theWorldTradeCenterinNew York. While we stood there talking about whether it was a small private plane or commercial plane, another co-worker came by and said a second plane had just hit the otherWorldTradeCentertower. Before I could even voice it, my mind immediately thought this was more than a coincidence. Minutes later, you could hear people in our offices moving toward the front of the building where we had a large conference room with a TV. I made a quick call to my husband to let him know what I had heard, but was unable to reach him. I left a voice mail for him to call me, then I called my son’s babysitter to check on him. Although the planes had crashed hundreds of miles from where we were, I just needed to know that my husband and my son were both safe. Then I immediately began calling the cell phone numbers of the software trainers who worked for me. They flew all over the country each week, training our clients. Many of them had already flown the day before to sites where they were conducting training, but I knew at least one of them was scheduled to fly to a client site on the West Coast that morning. Something told me, he would not be flying anywhere that day, but I needed to make sure he was safe and not in the air. Then, I decided to go to the conference room to find out if the media had any info on what was going on. I had already tried to do a search online and the internet was pretty clogged with traffic. The conference room was already packed, so I found a spot where I could see the coverage and listened as Matt Lauer and Katie Couric from the Today Show began talking about what going on in NY. Already there was speculation that it was a terrorist attack. No one in the room was talking, and we all just sat there silently glued to the TV, and watched in disbelief as a 3rd plane hit the Pentagon, and later a 4th was deliberately crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa.
The Pentagon was only about 20 miles from where we were working , so when American Airlines flight 77 hit the Pentagon, it became too close for comfort for a lot of our employees, and many began leaving to go home, get their children (schools were dismissing early) and call loved ones. The most horrific part was watching the collapse of the two towers and knowing that there were still people in there including hundreds of policeman and firefighters. I left briefly to try to call my husband again, and discovered several voice mails from friends and family who knew how close I was to the Pentagon, and wanted to make sure I was okay.
When I finally reached my husband by phone, he delivered the bad news that all first responders in the MD/DC/VA area were on high alert and he might not be able to come home tonight. I decided to leave work and go home, and get my son. The drive there was so surreal as there were hardly any cars on the road. My mind raced as I drove to get my son. Would there be more attacks (I knew all the planes had been grounded, so I was pretty sure there would be no more crashed planes)? I thought about all those parents who would not be going home to their families that night. As I drove into the neighborhood where my son’s babysitter lived, I already began to notice American flags flying…more than I remember from that morning when I dropped him off. I had cried the entire way to get my son, but it was a great relief to hold him and know he was safe. Of course he had no idea what was going on so he smiled at me and giggled, and wanted to play. This helped to take my mind off things, even for a little while.
Later that evening after I had put him to bed, I sat and watched the coverage on TV. It was hard to wrap my head around what had happened and although it had been less than 12 hours since the first plane had been deliberately crashed into theWorldTradeCenter, it seemed like days had passed. I didn’t get much sleep that night, and thankfully, my husband ended up coming home at about 3am. He stayed home the next day with our son as I went into work. The next few days were filled with more news about the men who had hijacked the planes. I tried to block out that part and listened to story after story of those who had died that day. People just going to work that morning like me; people who took risks in their jobs who had rushed into those burning building to save lives, when everyone else was rushing out; people who narrowly escaped the tragedy by missing trains, heading into work late to take their kids to school; people who were supposed to be on those planes but for some reason had missed those fateful flights.
That day was full of sadness for the loss of innocence of our country, for the thousands of lives lost and lives forever changed. September 11 stirred a renewed sense of patriotism in people. There were memorial services, flags flying, red, white and blue everywhere. Songs dedicated to those lost their lives, and telethons to raise money for those left behind. For months I read anything I could get my hands on about 9-11. I was disgusted by those who tried to profit from this tragedy and uplifted by the stories of survival and perseverance.
As I look back on the events of that Tuesday morning, 10 years ago, I can almost hear my co-worker saying “A plane has hit theWorldTradeCenter” and I know that is the exact moment where it all changed, and our lives would never be the same.