Nine years have passed and what I remember is that my response was one of sheer shock. That this didn't happen here. And, where do we go from here?
I was teaching in a high school when I got a call in my classroom. I was teaching a small group of students that period in a room that was fairly small itself, and it didn't have a television in it. I misunderstood the call. A plane crashed into a building in New York. A terrible tragedy, but worth calling in the middle of class?
The bell rang and the halls were abuzz as I went to my next class where there was a television that I immediately turned on and my large group of students gathered around. A student with a normally large presence in the class came into the room shouting, "We're goin' to war!" I genuinely liked this student and was completely shocked by his response. So many people had just died, the unknowns were many, and his response was pure exhilaration that a war was in our future. It made me sick to my stomach.
How do you find joy in a day that so many people lives were lost, so many families were affected, everything you know has lost its frame of reference? Yes, he was only 15-years-old and I'm sure he was excited for the US to show it strength and muscle...but how do we help our children understand compassion? How do we help them see that an "eye for an eye" is not the answer? I was at such a loss for what to do or say at that moment. Maybe still today.
What I remember today are the people who worked to save the people under the rubble, searching through the dust and wreckage to find their neighbors. There were no no desks, no filing cabinets, no door knobs, nothing. It was all vaporized. I cannot imagine what that must have been like, and yet these everyday citizens went in with hope that they could help someone out of this mess.
I left school to go to the house where I was staying with the two kids I was taking care of while their parents were on a cruise. They came home from school that day and we parked in front of the television for the rest of the day. The parents were out of the country, scared out of their minds. What were they to expect? What will happen? We got a frantic call from them, from this trip they can planned with their brothers and sisters and now they were forced to stay out of the country until things cooled off, until the country got a grasp of what was going on. It was like the world froze and watched the televised reports from what was to be called Ground Zero and the Pentagon. It was a scary feeling to feel this helpless.
Nine years have passed and it is a collective agreement that our world is a different place since September 11, 2001. And yet, Kevin and I have gotten married and had four kids in that time. We have one niece and have one on the way. There have been other marriages, graduations, other celebrations. Things are different now than they were on September 10th of that year, but it is not all bad. Time passes and I remember what happened, and am deeply affected by it. And maybe one of the ways I am affected is that I am raising my kids in a way that I hope they are able to put themselves in the shoes of those who are different than them, able to see that we, as citizens of this world, have more in common with one another than we have differences. Or to have empathy for the tragedies and struggles of their neighbor. I want my children to have compassion, understanding, have faith that we can be a better people.