The Day America Changed-How September 11 (9/11/01) Has Changed US
The Twin Towers 9/11/01
I was driving to work, listening to my favorite DJ on the radio. I stopped at the stop sign at 47th South and Greenwich Road. There was a live commercial with a local sewing machine store owner. He was always fun to listen to and the DJ and he were talking back and forth. As this was happening, the DJ said something - since the store owner was talking, it was hard to make out what the DJ said.
The store owner said, "Do I need to let you go?" The DJ said "No, let's finish up." The commercial ended and the DJ was interrupted by the head news guy.
"We have breaking news - an airplane has crashed into the World Trade Center."
That is where I was at on September 11, 2001. Just driving to work - not expecting the world as we knew it to be destroyed in a heartbeat.
The radio station went to the national feed. Everyone was talking - speculating....Was it a passenger plane that had lost its course? Was it just an accident? Or was it something worse?
At first, I was a little upset. I felt the news media was blowing something out of proportion. They were wondering if it could be another terrorist attack. Just because it happened once, didn't mean that it would happen again, did it?
By this time, I was at work. In a classroom that would soon hold twelve special education students. As I prepared for the day, I continued to listen to the radio. Listening to the speculation. Wondering what was really happening. Then news hit that a second plane had hit the second tower. Now we know...this is an act of terrorism...America is under attack....
Minutes before the school bell rang to announce the beginning of another school day, our principal's voice could be heard over the loudspeakers. "Attention staff...as some of you may have heard, New York's Twin Towers have been hit by two airplanes...America is under attack. We need to make sure the students stay calm. We will not talk about this at school to the students today...we need more information...we need to talk to our counselors....we need to talk to parents...unless students bring up questions you are not to talk about this incident to the students. If they ask, you may explain to the best of your ability. Classes will continue as normal unless we hear otherwise from the superintendent...Let's pause in what we are doing for a moment of silence...thank you for what you do."
The school bell rang and students flooded into the building. Most had not heard the news yet. They were laughing and joking and pushing and shoving to get to their classrooms. Teachers and other staff members tried to act as if nothing was different. As if it were a normal, regular day.
A few moments later, my students - third, fourth and fifth graders - filed into my classroom. They went to their seats and picked up work folders and began working. It was eerily quiet. No one was arguing or giggling or teasing someone....They knew something was different, even if they didn't know what.
After a few more minutes, one of the students said, "I was listening to the radio on my way to school. They said that someone flew an airplane into a building in New York. Did that really happen?"
"That is what I heard, too." I answered. I was unsure as where to go next - of what to say next.
Other students chimed in. They, too, had heard the news. They wanted to talk about it. They wanted to express their fears. So I let them talk. They need it...I needed it...
I called the office and asked for a counselor to be sent to my room. I told them that my students had begun to ask questions...questions I didn't know the answers to. I was told that the counselors were already busy. And to answer the questions the best I could. So I did.
I gathered all the students on the floor in a circle. I told them they could ask anything and that I would try to answer their questions. I also told them that I didn't know a lot. The kids did have many questions - and I did the best I could to answer them. We did not get any work done that morning. We just talked. It helped me as much as it did the students.
For two and a half hours we talked. The students were scared. They wanted me to assure them that they would be okay. That their families would be okay. I did my best. But I told them that I was scared too. That I thought we would be okay here at school. That their families would be okay at home. I told them that New York was a long way from Kansas and that until we heard anything different, we would have to think we were okay in Kansas. It was a rough morning.
They didn't want to leave at lunchtime. They felt safe with their friends in our small classroom. So we went to the cafeteria and picked up our lunches and came back to our small safe haven. And talked some more. They were finally ready to leave and went out to recess. I watched them as they walked out to the playground and joined their classes. They were more subdued than usual. All of the children were.
I had not heard anything about the attacks since before the school day began. I went to the teacher's lounge. There were other teachers were talking. No one had seen or heard anything since before school. We wanted to see what was going on. The music teacher said that he had a tv that we could watch. We could see what was going. So we walked down the hall to the music room and we all got to see for the first time the airplanes strike the Twin Towers. We watched the buildings fall and the people running away. We saw the airplane strike the Pentagon. We heard that another plane had gone down in a field in Pennsylvania. We listened to the coverage about where the president might be. About who might be responsible. Then we had to go back to our classrooms.
The afternoon was the same as the morning. Because of listening to the news at lunch, I could now share a little more. I could answer questions a little better. I still didn't have a lot to share...but I did the best I could. The counselor finally had time to come in and talk to the students. She couldn't tell much more than I could, but she did the best she could to keep the kids calm.
When it was time for the students to return to their regular classroom, no one wanted to leave. So I let them stay. We talked and talked. Some kids cried. Some were visibly shaken. But all were relieved that they could be safe. Then it was time to get on the buses and go home. I walked all of my students to their buses that day. I didn't want to let them go, but knew they needed to be with their families.
I had an eerie drive home. My oldest daughter was away at college. I had tried to reach her by phone all throughout the day. The line was always busy - or no one answered and it went straight to voice mail. I was terrified. On my way home, she finally called me back. She was okay, but scared.
My other daughter had been at middle school. She had heard the news at school. She was scared that Kansas would hit next. As I had done earlier, I told her that Kansas was a long way from New York and that I thought we would be okay. She had asked her dad to pick her up from school earlier in the day, so she was waiting for me when I arrived at home. She and her dad had been watching the coverage all day long. I learned then that there had been passengers that had tried to stop a plane from crashing into another building. Theirs was the plane that had gone down in the filed in Pennsylvania.
For the rest of the evening and long into the night, we watched the news. We tried to turn the channel. We found a station playing old sitcoms. We watched "I Love Lucy" and "Gilligan's Island" in between news of the attacks. We couldn't stop watching. We wanted to know what was happening. We wanted to know if we would be safe. We wanted to know if there would be more attacks and how America would react.
We would soon find out that America would be okay. We would find out that life would go on. We would find out in the years to come that we would go to war and would eventually find and kill Osama Bin Laden. We would find out that were stronger than anyone had ever thought.
God Bless The Families Who Lost Loved Ones On September 11, 2001. Our thoughts and prayers will always be with you.
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