I think I’ve told this story before, but it’s such an important day in history that I really don’t want to forget it… and don’t worry nothing BAD happened to me or anyone I love, so this isn’t like a tear jerker or anything. But I do think it’s the tragedy that defines my generation. (If a tragedy can do such a thing.)
I was really young, like less than a month shy of 22 young. Now, at the time I thought I was all grown up. Having just graduated from college, I had my first ‘real’ job, a pre-k teacher for the Aubrey Independent School District. I had breakfast duty in the morning, and showed up a little late as usual. One of the mothers said something to me as she dropped her child off about a plane hitting a building in New York.
“A plane crash? Wow, that’s horrible,” I said to her and then went right back to my duty. I’d like to tell you about how I stopped right here and really thought about the victims, but that would be a lie. Instead I turned back to the students and started directing the kiddos that had finished to clean up their trays and get to class.
School started as normal, and I got my students situated in their morning centers after circle time. My window faced the front of the school and the parking lot filled up with parents picking up their kidlets. I said to my aide, “Huh-that’s weird. It’s a little early for bad weather or something.” Then we shrugged it off and kept teaching.
My principal appeared in the doorway and asked me to step out in the hall. Crap, I’m brand new here and I’ve done something horribly horrible–I just knew it. She handed me a memo on official Aubrey letterhead. Whoa. This was serious business. I’d only been there a week or two, but no one had handed me anything on official letterhead. I remember her looking me straight in the eye, saying, “Read this. Smile, walk back into the classroom. Hand it to your aide, have her read it out in the hall and tell her to smile and go back in the room. Do not talk to each other about this memo in front of students.”
So, I stood outside my room and read the memo. There are parts I still remember, but only fragments.
New York City
World Trade Center (I didn’t know what a world trade center was, but it sounded really important.)
and then the words that will forever be burned in my mind…
I read them once, and then again.
New York City?
The teachers all stood out in the hall. In complete silence reading their memos. We looked at one another, and then the principal cleared her throat and motioned for us to get back in our rooms. I handed the letter to my aide and smiled like I was told. We didn’t mention it again.
During my lunch break, I watched a fuzzy television set for ten or so minutes in the conference room someone had set up, but I didn’t really notice too much going on. I had a class to teach.
Then, I got in my car, drove home on a fairly deserted highway for that time of day and turned on the news.
That’s when the gravity of the situation really sank in….