Sunday, September 10, 2006


I'm standing in a classroom with students who cannot speak English and barely understand it: "You're attention please, this is Mr.____. It appears that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. If you have a parent that works at the World Trade Center, please go to your guidance counselor, now." (The same period, but later..although it all seems to run together...) "This is Mr. ______. Another plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and a bomb (didn't know it was another plane at the time) has exploded at the Pentagon. We appear to be under attack. Go to your classes. If you need to see a guidance counselor, administrator, or a teacher, please do so." I see a teacher run outside past my classroom to go home...her husband is in one of those buildings..."His boss was too cheap to have offices on the higher floors," she tells me the next day. He lived. Thank God.

I have the next period off (thank God): On the huge screen in the theater....people jumping from buildings, buildings falling....people Teachers can't grieve in front of the kids. They are hysterical enough. I go outside to use my cell phone. My friend's father's memorial service had to be canceled...all the guests were flying in and were grounded...he never got over that part of the day. My concern: Are you being called up? Are you on alert? Have you heard from the Army? Do you reschedule a memorial service?
Upstairs, where kids can't hear: dismay, questioning intelligence, tears, fear. My first thought after questioning intelligence--Bin Laden. Dealing with rumors of more planes and bombs...In front of the kids, for who are mourning a grandfather who was the deputy chief of the fire department...a girl mourning a family friend who was like a tears at various times throughout the year....weeks go on and we raise money for a scholarship fund for a district teacher who lost her son in the demise of the buildings. There were many students impacted. There were many cars abandoned at the train station...never again to have their owners guide their direction. Teaching seems useless, I seem useless, I think I'll quit and follow my dreams to be a lawyer. Maybe I'll quit and move out West...wait, what targets are out West? Composed on the outside, crumbling on the inside. Will my friend go to war? Never found out...a few months later, I never heard from him again. He wasn't right after all of what he experienced. I miss him, bastard. He's in Savannah.

Five years later, I dread the first full week of school. I also quietly hope for rain. I remember; clearly, on my way to school that morning thinking about what a beautiful day it did a lot of people. I get to see the sun rise as I drive to school. Some mornings are simply too gorgeous for words. I don't want to drive to school that day and catch myself thinking that again--what if it happens again? It scares me. I couldn't look at the sky without fear for months. Every time I saw a military helicopeter, I cringed. I learned how to differentiate between the sound of a military plane and a commercial plane. I live where planes descend to get into Philly...the silence was scary.

I had a Pakastani student who didn't come to school for the remainder of the week. She and her family were scared to send her. She never wore her head scarf again. She "needed to blend in better." That's what she said.

Every time I hear the beeping sound that informs an announcement is about to be made over the school's p.a. system, and it is not time for the afternoon announcements, I still cringe.

I wanted to memorialize a victim of the most tragic day in our history and in my lifetime. I didn't feel I could do that person justice. I thought it would also dredge up everything that I felt, but couldn't express five years ago and until now, have never expressed.

This is in memory of all of those that lost their lives doing their jobs: Firemen, police officers, emergency responders, military, civilian, children on airplanes, loved ones storming a plane's cabin, all of them.... Their loss and how they were lost will never escape my mind. I think about it every week. When I see my neighbors who are in the military, I think about them and what might cause them to have to go overseas at some point.

A year before all of this I asked my students if they knew who Osama Bin Laden was. No one did. I warned them of what his intentions were for our country. They rolled their eyes.

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