Sunday, September 11, 2011
10 years ago I was a high school history teacher. School started at 7:10 am and I started our class period with a quiz and current events. As the lesson of the day was just getting started, the principal of my school entered my classroom and said, "Stop teaching. Turn on your television. New York City is under attack!"
I did as I was told. Just as I got the television on, my students and I watched the first tower crumble to the ground. Not too much after that the second tower was down and my students were in a panic. Most of them didn't even know what the World Trade Center was.
I left my classroom. The first thing I did was head to the gym. I was the JV cheer advisor at the time and the cheerleaders were practicing with the head advisor and I knew they didn't have a clue what was going on. I quickly told the kids what had happened and ushered them all into my classroom. 30 cheerleaders, nearly 40 students and a couple adults were glued to a teeny tiny television in the corner of my classroom.
Next, I ran out to my car. Haley and I had just been to New York City a few weeks before and for whatever reason, my photo album was in the back seat. I grabbed it, brought it into the school, and proceeded to show my students the pictures. Thank heavens I was so knowledgeable back then and that I had so much background in political science. I was able to talk to my students about New York City; draw maps on the board; answer their questions about terrorism and extremists and osama bin laden - he was a guy who I'd learned about at the "U" and I knew who he was as his name was uttered across the airwaves.
The rest of the school day was a blur. I think I shined as a teacher and a leader for my students that day. I know during the week, hundreds of people rifled through my photo album. I had my students bring flags of all shapes and sizes to school and we pinned them all to the back wall of my classroom. There was nothing on the wall to see but red, white and blue. I watched countless hours of horrific video and tragic stories on TV so that I could be prepared for the next days round of questions by all my students. It was exhausting.
My parents remember exactly where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated. I remember exactly where I was the day two airplanes crashed into two tall buildings, and the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania.
But we moved on. I was as far removed from the "terror" that day as I could be. Across the country, completely safe. My life wasn't threatened, my family protected. I'll never be able to imagine what it was like for those people and families directly affected. I'm sure that the last 10 years have been full of trials and heartache, tears and memories.
For me? I don't know. I don't feel any less safe or any more protected. I don't agree with the way the "war on terror" has been handled, the role our government has played, but I have a deep respect and admiration for the troops who have sacrificed their time, lives, and safety to protect me and the citizens of the world.
My life didn't skip a beat and it still doesn't. It's hard to relate. I haven't watched a video, looked at a picture, or read a story. In fact, I've avoided all remembrance, all memorial. I've flipped the channel, closed the browser and skipped the tweet. I'm not sure that it's apathy, or if it's just exhaustion. The historian in me wants to move forward and forge ahead. The voyeur in me isn't interested in treading through the tragedy from so long ago. The citizen in me wants to sing more patriotic songs in church, have people sing the National Anthem correctly at sporting events, and turn the Fourth of July into something more than fireworks and barbeque's.
But, I suppose in the land of freedom and opportunity, I'm allowed to think whatever I want and you're allowed to disagree. And I guess I'm pretty lucky that the country I live in still thinks that's a right worth protecting.
Posted by Annie at 10:00 PM