Nine years ago today, my 10th graders and I were 10 minutes into an 85-minute 2nd period, doing Oedipus the King, when another teacher walked into the room and whispered into my ear that a plane had just hit the U.S. Senate building (wrong info, of course, but that’s what he said). What to do? I taught Oedipus for another 60 minutes, then told the kids what I had been told, held a moment of silence, and turned on the TV for the last 15 minutes. I couldn’t imagine just sitting there watching 75 minutes of live disaster coverage. I’ve never figured out if I did the right thing.
Then, third period. They all knew already, so we did straight TV. Almost none of my 9th graders had a cell phone–can you believe it? And those few phones were useless, as (a) circuits were busy anyway, and (b) I wouldn’t let them use them, as the circuits were necessary for emergency workers.
One student had an aunt who worked in the Pentagon, and no school phone lines were available for him to call and check–until we figured out that he could use the phone connected to the school library’s fax machine. (She was fine.) Parents were showing up to pull students out every few minutes. Another student excitedly asked if this meant school would be canceled tomorrow–worst. reaction. ever. (He never graduated, by the way.)
I can’t talk about how it felt to see the towers fall. Or the tear-inspiring surge of pride I felt–and feel–when we discovered the events that had taken place aboard Flight 93. (Forgive me if I brag a little that when the news first announced that it had crashed in a field, I immediately, intuitively, knew what had happened.)
I’m glad my own children know about this day as history instead of having the memories I have. And yet, I’d never choose to forget.