During conversations about the attack on the World Trade Centers (Twin Towers) and the Pentagon, I am always asked "Where were you on 9/11/01?". My answer is always the same, I was teaching at a small K-8 school in Idabel, Oklahoma...
The morning began the same as any other in our third grade classroom, with excitement to see what amazing learning adventure we would take on that day. Shortly into the third hour of the day the principal came to our classroom door and asked to see me in the hallway. I remember walking out my door and seeing every other teacher that worked in my hallway, standing with curious looks on their faces. I couldn't imagine why Mr. Austin wanted to take us out of our classrooms... As he began explaining the tragedy that had happened in New York City, we were speechless, a second grade colleague of mine became emotional. As we gathered around her she explained her daughter was in New York City, it would be several hours until she knew her daughter was unharmed.
Mr. Austin directed us to remain calm, carry on as normally as possible, and not to discuss any of the day's events with our students. Fifteen years ago I didn't have technology in my classroom, no ipads, laptops, or smart phones. I don't remember what time of the day my students went to specials (Music or PE) however I do remember sitting at a small rectangle table that was our classroom listening center. It had a boombox that had a cassette player and a radio. I sat at the center while my students were out of the classroom and listened to the news. I still remember the feeling as I was finally able to hear the details as they were coming into the news station.
I also recall the end of the school day. We had a quick faculty meeting to discuss how we would proceed the following day. When the meeting was over no one stayed around to chit chat, the parking lot emptied quickly. We all wanted to to be with our families, recount our day, and watch the news.
Six years later I traveled to New York City with my daughter, Erika, and my sister Shawna. As we stood on the observation deck overlooking the massive hole where the Twin Towers had once stood, I thought back to that day in my classroom, how I was very sad and nervous on the inside, but how I was an actor that day for my students. They were so innocent and didn't have a clue how their lives would be forever changed.
One of the heroic stories that came out of the 9/11 tragedy was that of Todd Beamer. His words "Let's Roll" became a popular phrase, I read the book and wore the shirt. I have thought about his widow and children each year on the anniversary of his fateful flight. As an educator I hope that I can be an example and role model for my students, as Todd was for our country.
May God Bless America,