Yes, I cried today. I didn't mean to cry, it wasn't planned, but I am not ashamed of it. My co-teacher and I both cried in front of a classroom full of wide-eyed 6th graders, and for me at least, it wasn't the first time I cried in front of a room full of sixth grade students.
If you look at the date, you probably know what made us cry, it's 9/11, seven years after the terror attacks.
This morning, My co-teacher Jonathon and I began retelling the events that took place in New York, Washington, and PA that day. He was in California at the time and I was in SW Florida. The kids were amazed to see how it affected everyone across the nation in much the same way, even if we didn't know someone who was actually in one of the four planes, the towers, or the pentagon that day. They of course, were too little to remember much of anything about what happened that day other than what people have told them and had many questions. Many didn't realize that there were actually four planes, not just the two that hit the towers. Other's didn't realize that their were passengers on the planes or that some people were able to make phone calls to loved ones before the unthinkable happened. They didn't know that brave firefighters and police risked their lives to help save others whom they didn't even know, or that we all banded together as a nation and waved flags, cheered our heroes, and mourned our dead.
It is interesting to note that in 2001 on September 11th, I was teaching a 6th grade class and here I am 7 years later in front of another 6h grade class telling them about that day. Everyone always says you will remember exactly where you were when you heard the news and I am sure that is true for those of us who lived it that day. I was standing at my classroom door welcoming my homeroom students to another wonderful day of middle school when a colleague came up to me and told me to turn on the TV, that an airplane had just crashed into one of the twin towers. I turned around and turned on the TV that usually just showed the morning announcements. I didn't have to look for a station that was showing it, they were all showing it. Replaying it again and again and the reporters were trying to figure out what was going on when suddenly behind them, a second plane hit the second tower.
I remember feeling such shock, fear, and confusion as I tried to work it out in my own head what was happening all the while knowing that I was responsible for the 6th graders in my room. I knew I couldn't lose it, but honestly, I was in too much shock to "lose it," I just stared at the screen now replaying the second crash. I didn't know if I really wanted the kids to see this, but I couldn't turn it off either.
I'm not sure that the kids really completely got it at first, so two planes just hit a building on the other side of the country...big deal. Some of them though, noticed me and commented that I looked scared or pale. Homeroom was only about 20 minutes long normally, just long enough to get any announcements or details of the day worked out prior to starting the school day. We didn't change classes for a while on that day. I think every TV in the school was on and every student, teacher, custodian, cafeteria worker, and everyone else stopped as we watched in shock as a third plane hit the pentagon then later reports of a fourth plane crashing in a Pennsylvania field.
Personally, I was running a list of everyone I knew through my head. Did I know where everyone was? Could any of them be in New York or Washington? What about on those planes, or another plane? Where were my friends from high school and college that I had lost contact with? Where were my friends in the military? Faces and names whirled through my head and my heart, but somehow I was able to keep it together for my students, although, that was the first day that 6th graders saw me cry.
I am not ashamed to say that thinking of those events still gets to me seven years later. The terror that I felt that day had to be nothing compared to those on the planes, in the towers and the pentagon, and those nearby. I ask myself if I would have been strong enough and brave enough to stand up to terrorist and face my own death to help crash a plane that I knew was about to crash into another unknown American building and kill and injure passably thousands more. Could I have run into a falling building to save people I didn't even know? I don't know. I hope I could have the faith and inner strength to do it, but I just don't know. I am thankful that God has placed people strong enough to do that on this earth. All I knew at that moment was a strong sense to hug every one of those confused sixth graders in my care, for my sake as much as theirs.