Today is a very special day. It was 10 years ago, that life changed for all of us in the United States and across the world.
I was in my second year of teaching students with severe disabilities and I happened to take one of my students to another classroom to ask the teacher a question. She was hovered over a TV, rather than teaching the 2 students in her class. It was odd, but if you knew this teacher you would have known instantly (as I did) that something was truly wrong. I asked her what was going on? She said “a plane just crashed into one of the twin towers,” with a tear trickling down her cheek. I pushed my student’s wheelchair to the table and gave her some blocks to build with and rushed to the TV. There it was! As we were watching, the second plane hit and our hearts sank and honestly there was a bit of shock. I asked her if that was just a rerun of the 1st or if we really saw what we think we saw.
It was the longest school day that I have had as a teacher (I watched the challenger explode at school when I was a kid and I still remember the horror and the wait to go home to the safety of my parents arms). We still had a job to do and our obligation was to the students in our care so we broke away from the TV to continue with our day. On a usual day, I usually closed down the school staying past 5 to prepare lessons and clean and organize the room, but 10 years ago… I just left. I wanted to be home and I wanted to be in front of the TV. I wanted to be where I felt safe and I wanted to be with my husband.
I was not directly effected by the attacks. I did not know any of the people who lost their lives personally or know anyone who was related to anyone who lost someone to the attacks. My parents both worked in Washington D.C., but were thankfully not where the plane hit. For the people who lost someone in the attacks, their lives were changed forever. This day marks when they lost someone they loved and they were not able to say good-bye or give them that one last kiss. They will forever think of how unpredictable life is and keeping the memory of their loved ones alive through sharing stories about them and reminiscing on times they shared with them.
For me, someone without a personal connection to the attacks, 9/11/01 was the end of innocence. It was the day where terrorism became real and the frail facade of relative security cracked. I was a Navy brat and I grew up knowing that we had a military for a reason and that reason was to keep us safe. I understood war, but this was a kind of war that was new to me. This was a war that was more psychological and threatening. This was the after.
10 years later we still live in the after… Our sense of security was bruised, but I now feel relatively safe. We still have increased security on planes and trains and big events, but it has become normal. I still will reminisce on the days when we could arrive at the airport and hop on a plane, meet a loved one at the gate and give them a hug as we walked out of the tunnel into sight. Although, I may remember those days, I would not want to trade in the precautions that we have today nor do I think they will ever disappear. We live in the after and there is no going back to before.My children were born in 2004 and 2006. They never knew things were different. They don’t remember the New York Skyline with the the two twin towers greeting them as they entered the city. They don’t remember a time when you did not have to take your shoes off and run them through an x-ray machine. They don’t remember when we felt so safe that we would let our kids ride miles away and not worry about them (I am not sure if the towers were directly the reason for this phenomenon, but I think as a parent I know I want to know where my kids are at all times because you never know) as long as they made it home for dinner. They don’t remember the day when the towers fell, and for them it is a story in our history books. The significance lost due to a lack of memories and life experience. They still have a bit of innocence, and their world is how it has always been. I do wish for them that they do not have to experience any days that will be etched into memory like challenger’s explosion in 1986 and the 9/11 attacks are for me. It is a wish I hope will come true, but am realistic enough to know may not be fulfilled.
9/11 is a day to remember that life is fragile. It is a day to reflect on the lives that were taken and their potentials lost. It is a day that I think about the heroism of the fire-fighters, the policemen, and the people who helped at the scene even when they know that their lives could be at risk. It is a day to remember that we are a community and we care about one another. Finally, it is a day to hug my kids tight and make sure that those who I love know that I love them.