Sunday, September 10, 2006

Nearly 9/11

It was my first full week of my full time student teaching assignment for grad school. I was assigned to one teacher, but had decided to also sit in on her next door neighbor's classes as well. A chance to see another grade level.

I had already had my baptism by fire and was teaching my teacher's classes while she either supervised or had some time to herself in the faculty room down the hall.

It was just before 9:00 am and another teacher walked in to the front of my room and handed me a sheet of paper. It was a photo printed from Yahoo news that showed an airplane plowing into one of the towers at the World Trade Center. Handwritten on the bottom, it said, "For your information only, don't mention to the students until further notice."

I did a double take. It seemed like a joke.

Somehow I managed to get to the end of the period, around 9:30 am, and then during my free next period, I literally ran down the hallway to the Faculty Room. There were a million people in there and I had to squeeze in and work my way toward one of the three televisions that were on. The second plane had hit by then, and they were starting to believe that there were more waiting, circling--who knows where--waiting to cause even more devastation, more chaos.

The administration decided not to close school although many in the area had...but hundreds of parents arrived to take their children home and hold them close. I was panicked because my two sons were in two different locations (school and pre-school) almost half an hour from me. My fiance was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. All I wanted was to all be together, but I had to finish up the workday first, I had to keep it together for the students first, then I could try to keep it together for my own children.

Of course, word leaked out to students. Kids were coming in to school late after doctor's appointments and they told the others. They were quiet. Those of you who teach know that this is not their normal state.

The second teacher I was working with had disappeared. I soon found out that her ex-husband whom she was close with, and obviously still in love with, the father of her three daughters, worked on the 85th floor of the World Trade Center.

He didn't make it home that day.

She was out for weeks and I took over her classes because I knew what she had planned to do with her students. She needed to be with her children. I could relate.

After weeks, they finally recovered some of his body, although I remember thinking at the time that it was almost worse than if there had been nothing--the closed casket being worse than none at all.

He didn't live to see one of his children graduate high school.

None were married yet.

His second oldest went to these past Winter Olympics for women's hockey.

For me, although only touched by the tragedy on this peripheral level, I remember vowing two things.

One, that I would make sure that my children were always close by me when I finally got a permanent teaching job. (The one I have now lets me bring them to school with me tuition free even though we aren't in the district. It is one building Kindergarten-twelfth grade. We are under one roof all day long. And the new boy is just down the road, I can be there in two minutes). That day alone impacted my resolve to keep my family close.

Two, that no matter how much time passed, or what happened in the aftermath, that I would never forget the horror and the surrealness of that day.

The desperation of the people who jumped.

The bravery of the rescue workers who had to have known they would not come back down the stairs of the towers.

The boldness of the passengers on a plane in Pennsylvania who saved yet one more building's occupants from a certain fate.

The courage of the survivors who grieved publicly so that we could all feel their pain. Those who continue to grieve in whatever way they can. Including one young woman who went to Italy in February without her dad and played her heart out on the ice. [They won the Bronze medal and during the medal ceremony, I watched her face and knew without being psychic what she was thinking about most. I prayed that as they placed that ribboned medal around her neck that she felt as though it were her proud father's arms. I believe she did, indeed, feel him with her. She has said so. This is small comfort].

The ugly hatred of a few people who hate America so much that they could do something so heinous and cause so much devastation.

The beauty of people coming together despite religious, cultural, or political beliefs...united in common grief.

That day showed the worst of humanity...
but it also showed its best.


Blogger lorinda said...

Beautiful, Jaimi. Thank you.

9:51 PM  
Blogger pacalaga said...

A lovely tribute. It's never enough, but it's all we have anymore.

11:03 PM  

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