Now that I look back, I am not sure why my class was outside on the playground at 9:03 AM. We started school at 8:03 and that seems too early for a recess break. I happened to be in my room while another teacher took my kids outside for a brief recess while I prepared for a lesson. They weren't out but a few minutes when my phone rang in my classroom.
It was my fiance, at the time and now my husband, Paul. I wondered why he would be calling me so early in the day. He asked me if I knew what had happened. Know what?
He told me to turn on my tv in my classroom. My heart sunk. Two planes had crashed into buildings in NY. I didn't understand. He filled me in on the details as I watched it replayed over and over on the tv. Panic started to set in. One plane is an accident (maybe) but two? This could be the unthinkable.
I immediately thought of Paul's brother, Dave, who lived in New York at the time and worked in Manhattan. Have you talked to Dave? The phone lines were so bogged down so he couldn't get through to him.
No sooner did I begin to put the pieces of the events together and realize this could be worse than ever imagined when my students were hustled back into my classroom. We were told to turn off our tvs and leave them off, say nothing and lock our doors.
My classroom was my home away from home. My students were (are) my family. I was responsible for all of these littles who belong to loving and now scared parents. I was scared.
My thoughts, as weird as they sound, went to a movie I saw many years ago called Red Dawn. The image of the enemy falling out the sky in parachutes outside of the school windows pierced my mind. All I thought of was how was I going to protect these children if this became the unimaginable (not just what was contained in the tv screen like another drama show).
I thought I would huddle my students in the cubbies in the classroom and put myself between them and the windows. Of course, I knew it couldn't possibly come to that. Or could it?
I had to go through the rest of the day on lockdown and act as if nothing was wrong except to acknowledge the occasional frantic parent coming in to take their child. Believe me, I would have rushed right up to the school to get my babies.
In many different places, the unthinkable was happening right in front of our eyes.
Planes crashing all over. Are there more? Where? When? How? Why? Then buildings falling. Sadness and grief for loved ones and strangers. Anger.
There was an erie silence in the school. Whispers of bits of new information gathered from phone calls were being relayed. Everyone was wondering what tomorrow would be like after the kids found out what had happened. How do we respond? Little did we comprehend at that moment that a new era had begun.
Dave, Paul's brother was ok. He got halfway to work only to be turned around and headed back home.
Our friends were staying near Broadway on a business trip. They decided to make it a family trip with their new baby. As Bill said goodbye to Emily that morning, she said she had the weirdest dream about a plane crash in New York. She is a very level-headed person and she doesn't say things like that normally. She felt weird about it. They said goodbye and Bill went off to Jersey for a meeting leaving her in their hotel with their new baby. I could have some of the facts wrong or missed some but there she was when the planes crashed in a big city alone with her baby and all hell breaking loose. Bill was now stuck on the other side of the river and couldn't get back. I can't imagine being in the midst of all of that chaos. I was afraid and overwhelmed just watching it on tv. There is no way to understand the scope of such a disaster through a television set.
Strangely, after school that day, I had an appointment at the mall. Because I was forced to have as normal of a day at school as the day before, I drove to my appointment thinking that is what everyone was doing. Maybe in disbelief or uncertainty, I thought that I shouldn't miss my appointment. I was not sure what I was going to find as I drove there.
I found a deserted parking lot with a few people scattered here and there possibly with the same thoughts I had. Do we go on as usual? I was stunned by the days events. I even went up to the door to be sure it was actually closed. It was locked. It was spooky. At that moment, I felt alone, in a bubble even though there were two people standing near the door. We all looked at each other with apprehension. I got back into my car and drove home.
Things began to change immediately. Locks and cameras were put on outside doors at our schools. Airports changed over night (for the better in some ways). Security everywhere was revamped. The word "terrorist" became a word never uttered on the aviation property especially airborne for that matter.
Flags went up everywhere. It seemed like everyone was friendlier on the street than the day before. Like we weren't strangers anymore. Like we had each other's back. There was that wink of "they aren't going to beat us." Patriotism and American pride was making a comeback. Together we stand.
It is a day I will never forget. I will never forget the feelings and emotions that I had. Nobody will forget the day that changed the climate of our country.
I wanted to share my experience with you. Where were you that day?
I will share another related story about post 911 that I experienced a few weeks later in another post. it is one that really allowed me to see 911 from the eyes of the people in the buildings that day.
God Bless all of the people who lost their lives 11 years ago (I can't believe it has been that long), their families and God Bless America!
Check out my friend, Christy's experience as a Detroit reporter sent to NYC on 911. http://christymcdonald.wordpress.com/