Ramblings on 9/11.

My where-were-you story:

It was my first year of teaching. I walked into the library at work just after the South Tower was hit, huddled near the TVs with admins, a few other teachers, and a bunch of students. I remember seeing the South Tower wobble and saying, “It looks like it’s going to fall over.” And then it collapsed. I remember thinking, My God, there’s only going to be one Twin Tower. I don’t remember if I was still in the library when the second tower fell at 10:30– I think I was, but that means we would have had an unusual bell schedule that day. Maybe I just remember it from watching the video over and over again.

I had scheduled a government test on that day. In spite of the fact that the most significant geopolitical event in decades was happening right then, I made them take the test anyway. Partly because I felt obligated to keep on schedule and keep things as “normal” as possible, partly because I stupidly thought my freshmen couldn’t handle it. It is unquestionably the dumbest thing I have ever done as a teacher. I should have flipped on the TV and done nothing else that day.

The kids were oddly calm for the most part, or at least if they weren’t, they hid it well. One student wrote on her test something to the effect of “Seven days until Christ returns,” and handed it in with the saddest look-in-her-eyes you ever saw. I told them to behave on the bus rides home because the roads would probably be packed– I was wrong. The roads were as close to empty as I’ve seen on a workday afternoon. That might’ve been the fastest ride home ever. I made sure to fill up the car with gas and withdraw as much cash as possible from the ATM.

The next day, the news showed the feds searching the Boston hotel where the hijackers had stayed. I remember thinking that if they’d pulled something like this off, then they’d probably rigged their rooms with bombs. That hotel was going to blow up and kill even more cops, and God only knew what would come next.

Remember Barbara Olson? She was one of the original FOX blondes and she was almost a regular on Politically Incorrect. I used to watch that show religiously and was shocked to hear she was on Flight 77. Bill Maher left one of his panel seats empty for her for a while– proof that despite everything, he can be a classy guy.

Remember the anthrax attacks just a week or two later? Thankfully that was just some crackpot (we think) and not some broader terrorist network. Bio-terror hasn’t quite materialized to the extent we feared. I think this picture of an anthrax survivor did a great deal to allay our fears of bio-terror.

I remember wondering how my grandmother, 91 at the time, reacted when she heard the news. She simply shook her head. By that age, nothing is new.

Remember the plane crash in Queens a couple months after 9/11? Almost 300 people died in that crash, including some on the ground. Remember that odd, twisted sense of relief when it turned out to be good old-fashioned pilot error?

Either on or just after 9/11, I told my students that we’d let our collective guard down partly because we’d forgotten that things like this can happen. Not to blame Clinton or Bush, I said, but our government for the last few years had been run by people who weren’t old enough (or born enough) to remember Pearl Harbor. Those kids got it. They won’t forget. The trick in the future will be to pass on this sort of knowledge to the people too young to remember the World Trade Center.

4 comments

  1. []
    While I was only 8 that day, I was pulled out of my class following the first attack to be told my dad, who was flying to New York on (from what I remember) happened to be one of the missing Delta flights that just had radio problems. The only reason I bring this up is because I remember my brother [brother’s real name here] being told that he was pulled out of a test to be told and ended up failing it despite being ready for it. IDK if it was your test, but thought I bring it up. He was a Freshmen that year at Paxon, but in the Pre-IB program and IDK if you were teaching IB then.

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  2. I, too was teaching and we would have watched the TV if we had them installed. They were on the floor in my room still inside the box.

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  3. Okay, I wasn’t sure, just thought it might have been your test. So far I’ve been very wrong with my assumptions/rumors if you include those of Mr. Scuillo, ect…

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