The day comes back in pieces, small bits of memory from nearly 15 years ago. I recall walking towards the media center (a.k.a. our school library) to use the copy machine, probably, and as I reach for and try to turn the handle of the heavy wooden door to enter, I realize it’s locked. That’s odd! I continue walking; turn a corner and head toward the office. I can cut through the main office to reach the media center! I take a couple of steps into the office and through the huge glass window in the middle of the door I can see people inside. It looks like the TV. is on. I open the door and am greeted by another teacher, blocking my way in. Her face is tear-stained and she breathes out something about the towers being hit. What? What towers is she talking about? She gives way and I step closer to the television. I watch the live broadcast and try to make sense of the pictures on the screen. New York doesn’t look right.
All sense of the world as I knew it is gone. Questions ran through my head: Why would someone do this? Has someone attacked us? Where else will they hit?
After my initial memory of the locked door, being greeted by another teacher, it gets hazy. I remember that we were not allowed to speak to our kids about what had happened. We could not readily contact our families. Protocol was spread by word of mouth throughout the corridors, but to adults only. What little contact the staff had with each other that day was very hush-hush and we were very careful that the children didn’t hear or see anything out of the ordinary. Our first priority was to keep things normal, just like any other day.
I remember leaving school that day as soon as I could and just watching TV…the entire night! As terrifying as it was to believe that the United States had been attacked, I wanted to know everything! I just stared at the screen in disbelief, tears running down my face. The last time I had experienced anything even the least bit close to this day, the space shuttle Challenger had blown up in the sky. I felt just as numb.
The next day we were to keep things as normal as possible. A letter/ email had gone home to the families of our students from the superintendent letting them know what the schools did to keep our children safe. If anything did come up with our students in our classrooms, we were told to point to “the helpers” and to encourage them to check in with their families. It was not discussed within our classrooms, or at least that’s how I remember it. We had to protect the innocence of our children. I wonder if we handled things in the best way.