Monday, September 11, 2006


Since Joe and Jim have weighed in today--Joe on his memories of 5 years ago and Jim on what his students had to say today, I'll weigh in. It's not like you can walk up to people and say "Here's what I did on 9/11/01," but I have so many distinct memories of the day, and an anniversary is a chance to share them.

My clock radio wasn't set to music that was set to the M's station so I could listen to the last of the Monday night's M's/Angels game in bed. So I woke up to news. I was out of the shower and changing when the news guy said "A plane has hit the World Trade Center. The pictures are quite amazing."

So I turned on CNN. They were. Accident, I figured.

Then the second plane hit as CNN was talking to a man on the street. He went nuts.

OK. No accident.

Time to start figuring out what the hell I'd do in school.

By the time I got to school, I had scared kids outside my door. Everyone was saying "Have you heard? Have you heard?" But everyone had heard. I turned on the TV in my room and saw the Pentagon. What the hell?

We had an emergency before-school faculty meeting to figure out what would happen. "I would like to go home. Is that a possibility?" asked a math teacher. No, it wasn't.

And then came the attack that wasn't.

As we met with our homerooms to say we'd be going to classes that day, but there were counselors available, etc., I saw CNN's crawl announce that a bomb had gone off at the State Department.

My sister worked at the State Department. I said out loud: "That's where my sister works." I immediately got on the work phone to my parents.

"Have you heard from Kathleen?"

"Yes. She called."


She said when.

"Because CNN just said that there's been a bomb at the State Department."

My mom sounded not sad or scared, but very tired. She simply said: "Oh, shit."

Kathleen called my folks again about 10 minutes later, and they in turn called me. Turns out CNN's report was inaccurate. Thanks, CNN!

The first class of the day was Debate. We were going to go to the library to work on our philosopher presentations, but I didn't want to force the kids to work. Nor did I want to force the kids to watch coverage. So I postponed the due date for the presentations and told them they could work if they wanted or watch if they wanted.

All 26 of them went to the library and sat silently in front of the TV for 100 minutes.

The next class was my junior American Lit class. What the hell was I supposed to do with them? The lesson plan called for us to read Patrick Henry's speech. But I called an audible. I circled them all up and asked them to get out a piece of paper. I said to write their name at the top, and the date. The date, I said. Be sure to write the date. Write 9/11/01. You'll want to keep this one, and you'll want a piece of paper with that date on it.

How do we handle a tragedy like this one? I don't have an answer, I said, but sometimes it helps to write about it. Just write about what hapened today, what you're thinking, what you're feeling. Just write.

They did. I don't remember much of it. I marked it not with pen, but with sticky notes so they could tear my comments off and keep their unmarked writings if they wanted.

But the last class of the day is the one I'll remember.

After lunch, I felt like we were tragedied out, so I decided they could handle the lesson plan (with the caveat, of course, that anyone could visit the counselors if needed). The kids seemed to welcome a chance to not talk about the events of the day.

Patrick Henry. We read the speech out loud.

And I was totally freaked out by a line in there.

The kids were reading along with the texts. A couple of less-attentive students and I were staring off into space and listening when these words of Henry's were read:

If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.


Now, the kids who read didn't notice. But the kids who were staring into space and I shuddered at the same time and looked at each other. Because where Henry had written "plains of Boston," we heard "planes of Boston." And in that context, it was terrifying and bizarre, like Patrick Henry had travelled through time to tell us we needed to fight for freedom.

I'll never forget that.

For the rest of 2001, everyone in our nation would have done help out. And all our President said was "go shopping." For those couple of months, every country in the world outside of Afghanistan were with us. Arab newspapers ran headlines like "We are all Americans."

And now that's all gone.

This evil could have made us better as a nation and a world. Freer. Patrick Henry seemed to tell me so. But we lacked the leaders to make it happen. Outside of the losses of so many people, nothing makes me sadder about 9/11/01 than the lack of positive change in the world that followed.

1 comment:

GrigorPDX said...

Outside of the losses of so many people, nothing makes me sadder about 9/11/01 than the lack of positive change in the world that followed.

Amen. I couldn't have said it better.