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My 9-11 Story: I was Teaching Grade Two

Updated on September 17, 2015

Where Were You?

Every generation has its "where were you?" moments. For my mother, it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. She was sixteen. For Generation X, it was the crash of the Challenger in 1986. I was sixteen, too. And for anyone over the age of twenty, it's 9-11.

We all remember what we were doing at that moment that the free world was attacked. Time stood still on that day. It was a nightmare while waking. Part of our culture and part of our humanity is that we like to tell the story of where we were. This is my story. Maybe it will inspire you to tell yours.

How Do I Explain This To A Bunch of Seven Year Olds?

On September 11, I was just in my second week of teaching at Chief Old Sun School at Siksika Nation, Alberta, Canada. My class was a group of eighteen grade-twos and we were just getting to know each other. The staff at COSS were all sitting around in the staff room, lingering for a couple of extra minutes before school started when my sister called me on the school phone. "Did you see the T.V.," she asked? I told her "No," and she proceeded to tell me what was happening. As we spoke, another plane crashed into the World Trade Centre. Like the whole world, I was in shock.

While I was on the phone, some other teachers started to notice the small black and white television in the staff room. We all sat stunned. It was also time to class. We talked briefly about how we would handle the news with our students. We agreed to tell them what was happening but not to overwhelm with too many details. I cringed as I walked down the hall. How would I explain this event to a group of seven and eight year olds, when I did not even comprehend it myself?


Sometimes People Are Mean

I headed into the class, praying for guidance on what to say. It didn't seem real. I couldn't watch T.V. to get more details. School had to go on and these kids needed to be taught.

I told the students that something bad had happened but that they would be okay. I explained that sometimes people are mean and try to hurt other people and that some people had been really mean today and tried to hurt others.

I explained that their parents and other grownups would be upset but that they would be okay. It had happened in New York, which was pretty far from where they were but everyone was still pretty upset.

It didn't seem to have much impact on those little children. When I told them it was going to be okay, they believed me and went on with their day. Some of them were curious but none seemed scared. It hit me that day how important school was.

I was so glad I could be there for them on that day, to make their day normal. And I was amazed that how our day continued in that little safe environment while the sirens raged. They did not know that their world changed that day. As the adult who knew and could not tell them, it was strange, like I was hiding something important from them.

It was strange watching the children and being worried about them, about how this would affect their future, but knowing that they were completely oblivious. And it was my job to keep them that way. They were too young to handle such news, except at a very simplistic level. And so we sheltered the children. As a teacher, it was usually my job to educate. But that day, my job was to shelter.

I don't remember the rest of the day except that we all got through it and lingered in the staff room as long as we could, devouring any news and talking to each other, not wanting to be alone. That night, I went home to an empty apartment and everything in the world seemed different. I remember talking to my Mom on the phone and feeling very depressed.

On this day, I was mourning for a world that didn't seem safe anymore and I couldn't sleep. I had nightmares most of the night.

I Am Overcome

Allan Jackson Said It Best

We Were Living In A Different World

Although I cried all night, the next day, I got up and continued to work with my grade two class, stopping fights on the playground, practicing addition and reading them stories. The next evening, I went to my church Bible study and we talked about what had happened. I needed to be with people that loved me. A few days later, I received news that my former love had made it to Mexico safely. And gotten married. And a few months later, my best friend, my mother died. Life kept going on. And that year I became stronger than I had ever been. I was a different person -- not because I wanted to be but because I had to be.

I will always remember September 11, 2001 and the days that followed. After terrorists attacked North America, killing thousands of innocent people, we would never quite feel safe again. We knew that anything could happen and we were not immune to horror. We were living in a different world. We all used cliches to describe how we were feeling and we still do. That is all we have in the face of war. Cliches and hugs. And tears.

That is where I was on September 11, 2001. I hope my story will help you to remember yours. When we share our stories, we grow closer.

Where You On September 11? Please feel free to share your memories and/or thoughts ot the anniversary.

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    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      4 years ago from Canada

      @Rochelle Frank, thank you so much for your kind words! Yes, it was certainly a crazy day and one we won't forget. it's interesting that kids nowadays are fascinated with that day. I taught grade six for four years and they were the ones born on that day. They love to hear about this historic day. Thanks again for your comment and I apologize for not responding in a timely manner. I have been away from Hubpages.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      4 years ago from California Gold Country

      I have been watching some of the programs on TV dedicated to this anniversary, and realizing what a mass of confusion it caused. The Canadians certainly proved themselves to be our best friends again, by taking care of so many American air passengers who were stranded when All flights were halted for a time.

      I think you handled the children perfectly. At their age, none of us know what's "normal"-- telling them the basic truth with a little reassurance is what was needed.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      9 years ago from Canada

      Traveler, wow. You were alone, writing and marking at night. What a memory. It was an event that perhaps even touched everyone on the planet, as long as they had access to media. Thanks so much for sharing. I am sorry to hear about your mother, too. Those of us who have lost our Mom are a group unto ourselves. Take care!

    • World-Traveler profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      I was sad to read about your mom. I lost my mom as well under circumstances much less than good. On Sept. 11 I was in my apartment living near Bangkok, Thailand. It was about 2:00 in the morning Thai time. I was correcting student papers, preparing lesson plans for the classes that day and editing one of the four books I had written while in Southeast Asia. I remember.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      9 years ago from Canada

      @Stephanie, the first word you mentioned was disbelief and that was the primary thing, wasn't it? It was just so hard to believe it was happening in North America, and without provocation. Thanks for sharing.

      @Dahoglund, my husband saw it on t.v. and thought he was watching a movie at first. Thanks for sharing.

      @Ktrapp, how eerie that must have seemed to you, to have this beautiful weather contrasting with what was happening in New York. Thanks for sharing.

      @Kenneth, thank you so much. Like all of us, you do remember the day so perfectly. I understand that sometimes it's something we can't talk about, but the memories are strong nonetheless. I was inspired by other people who had shared their stories about their day. Thanks for the great comment!

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      9 years ago from Canada

      @Quill, thank you so much. Your kindness has been very missed on Hubpages and it's so great to have you back. Yes, it was a terrible day for all of us and it was helpful to remember. Take care.

      @Kathy, thank you so much. Yes, it was impossible to explain to those little ones but I tried my best. I am doing great now: how much things can change in ten years! Thanks for coming by!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      9 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      prairieprincess...voted up and everything but FUNNY. And 9-1-1 was NOT funny. GREAT hub. I recall exactly where I was when America changed forever, but I don't want to dredge up hurting memories. Glad to be one of your followers.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      I vividly recall that it was a beautiful day with perfectly crisp, blue skies in the Chicago area, where I was out at the bus stop with my daughter. My neighbor came out and told me about a fire at the world trade center. When I returned inside I turned on the morning news, got on the phone with my sister in NY, and watched in horror as they realized that it was a plane, and watched in even greater horror as the second plane hit. But I will never forget how absolutely beautiful out it was on that September morning and that it how it was 10 years later, as well. The rest of the day continued to be gorgeous outside but so eerie with the silence in the sky and on the roads!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I had taken the day off for a chemo therapy appointment. To pass the time while I was waiting to go to the doctors office and that's when the first plane hit.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      9 years ago from USA

      Just starting a workday, one of my coworkers yelled out, "Oh, my god, a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!" She was watching a live broadcast on her computer, and we all ran in to see what had happened. When the realization hit the world that it was deliberate, I, along with the rest of the U.S., felt an indescribable mixture of disbelief, horror, fear and grief. For the rest of our work day, we brought in a TV and checked the ongoing news as often as we could as horror piled upon horror. No one who saw those broadcasts will ever forget that day or the weeks that followed.

    • KathyH profile image


      9 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      I cannot even imagine having to explain this to little ones! Our boys were 16 when it happened...pretty much grown up, but I know they will remember it always just like I do. So sorry for your losses, too, and glad you are doing better... prayer goes a long way to help! :)

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      9 years ago from Canada

      @Prasetio, it was such a sad, sad thing. Thanks for the comment.

      @Samson, I have read yours and was glad I did. It is definitely a time to remember. It's hard to believe it's been ten years already. And yes, I did find a wonderful man and am so grateful. Take care!

      @Wba, yes, it took a long time to bring Bin Laden to justice but I am glad they finally did. 9-11 was a hard time for me personally, too, and it was strange to write about a time I had not thought of for a long time. And the LORD brought me through it all, Praise his name!

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      9 years ago from Canada

      Jemma, it's interesting to hear from the younger generation. I was talking to my stepson about this: he was a kid at the time he says he remembers it well. Thanks for the comment and welcome to Hubpages!

    • profile image

      "Quill Again" 

      9 years ago

      Hi prairieprincess... as always well written and touching as we have all felt the pain through your words... a terrible day for us all.

      Know that you are loved dearly by us all.

      Blessings and Hugs from a little to the west.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      9 years ago from Canada

      Marwan, as a newsman, you had to try to make some sense out of it and understand it like no one else. How difficult that must have been. It was the most horrific tragedy imaginary. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image 

      9 years ago from upstate, NY


      Great description of what many of us felt on 911! I'm from upstate New York and I felt a disbelief and a fear come over me that later turned into anger! Most Americans assumed a military counter strike would be swift and sure and that Bin Laden and his ilk would be brought to justice and made an example of!

      It seems 911 brought multiple Calamities to your life but I'm sure God had grace for you in the midst of it.

      God Bless-WBA

    • samsons1 profile image


      9 years ago from Tennessee

      Very good read. Yes, we all have a story to tell and I just finished mine on HP before I found yours. Bless you my dear I hope things later worked out for you. We all need someone...

    • prasetio30 profile image


      9 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I feel so sad every time I see heard about this tragedy. I hope the terror will stop and peace for the world...amen.

    • JemmaJule profile image


      9 years ago from London

      I was at a music class.

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 

      9 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      It was one day before putting our weekly newspaper to bed. It was Tuesday afternoon. I remember coming into one of the rooms where the rest of the staff were assembling with their eyes fixed on the TV set and mouths aghast just watching the twin towers being blow up. I turned and watched in a rather confused kind of way. Pictures were being shown time and again. This was of course to be our top front page story. It was assembling news and analysis. We were a weekly therefore the stories needed to have a long shelf life, but we made sure that the news of the attacks were going to be given prominence as well as the human tragedy that has just taken place. After watching the news editors and reporters went back to their computers. I think too stunned to believe what has just happened, it was a human tragedy of immense importance.


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