It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 13 years since that fateful Tuesday morning when the world was glued to their TV screens, watching its way of life forever change before it’s eyes. It’s amazing how everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about what had happened.
I, myself, was in third grade and we had just come back to class from lunch. My teacher turned off the lights and told us there was something we needed to know. I am now Facebook friends with this teacher and last year on 9/11, we had a mini Facebook comment/conversation about that day in the classroom and it got me to thinking. There were a lot of heroes on that day: building workers, firefighters, police officers, paramedics, members of the military, plane passengers and a colossal amount of others. But there’s one group of heroes that might be overlooked when one thinks about 9/11—teachers.
How do you tell a bunch of third graders that terrorists just flew planes into buildings and likely killed thousands of people? They’re supposed to be told how to multiply, divide, how to use fractions and what “buoyancy” means. What’s more, how do you address third graders when you don’t know yourself what exactly is going on? What do you tell them? Do you tell them straight out or talk around it? My teacher told us, “Someone may want to make war with us.” I’ll never forget that.
When my teacher and I talked recently, she said to remember that things like Twitter and instant news information to millions of people at the touch of a button didn’t exist, so trying to keep young children, and herself, calm was no easy task. And this happened in a tiny rural school 300 miles from New York City and 400 from Washington, D.C. Imagine what teachers in lower Manhattan or in Arlington had to endure that morning. Although my teacher told me that when they heard of multiple hijackers, there was concern about the multiple nuclear power plants in Oswego–a mere 18 miles from us. There were lots of things to be frightened of.
It’s like trying to teach a young child poker—when you yourself don’t know all of the rules. And this time it wasn’t a game. It was real life. But I think teachers executed their two most important jobs best that day: inform students and protect them. Successfully keeping 30 or so students calm and safe while you’re confused and a bundle of nerves, takes talent.
So I applaud all educators on this day of remembrance, of what they did that day. They won’t be forgotten by me and they shouldn’t be forgotten by any when we think about that day that the world changed forever.