As everyone knows now, both towers fell and 9-11 became a day of infamy and remembrance. But at the time, there was so much unknown. I remember seeing the towers fall. I remember hearing about the Pentagon getting hit. I remember hearing that it was the Russians or Iran or about a half dozen other countries. I remember seeing bodies fall from windows before the collapse. I remember that day for all of the unanswered questions. But mostly, I remember driving to school with Matt and talking about how it was possible that we were going to teach that day. How would we be able to pull it together?
We usually carpooled since we taught at the same school, I taught seventh grade Language Arts and Matt taught the same subject in eighth grade. We'd usually talk about what we had planned for our students that day but on 9-11 lesson plans were not going to be followed. We speculated about how our school and district would react but mostly we knew that our students would be scared and we needed to be a rock for them. We leaned on each other for strength on that drive in and we needed it.
When we got to school we were informed that the district had made the decision that teachers were to leave the televisions off and not discuss what happened at the World Trade Center. I saw the district's point but then the bell rang and I was alone in front of 30 seventh graders and they were horrified. They were scared and thought that America was being attacked and that a nuclear bomb would be dropped at any second and that everyone would die. And since there was a ban on news at school I was in the dark as to the realities of what was happening too. In what would not be the last time I defied a school district's wishes, I turned on the television to CNN and we sat together and watched the news unfold. I would add comments to the reporter's about how "someone would pay" and "nobody messes with America" but mostly I answered questions and offered reassurances to some extremely frightened children. My TV stayed on the entire day as each class came and went. I did the same thing with every class; commented, answered questions, eased fears, and tried to make the kids feel safe. At one point my principal came in and saw that the TV was on and that we were discussing the situation. He nodded at me, smiled, and gave me a thumbs up. Thank you for that, Joe Sosky. I have never appreciated you more than at that moment.
The day went on with my students and a couple more teachers defied district orders and showed the news but I had a lot of student refugees that day (Kids not enrolled in my class who were in my class that day). In hindsight it was one of my most impactful days as a teacher. I still find it interesting that one of the worst days in American history was one of my best days teaching.
I'm in my twenty-fourth year of teaching and in all of that time I have received no more than 20 cards or notes of thanks from parents. On September 12th, I got 12 cards from parents thanking me for taking care of their children. I still have all of those cards and they have served as a guide for me as an educator for the rest of my career.