The Gang's All Here!

The Gang's All Here!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ultimate Craptastic Tuesday

So, obviously September 11, 2001 was the ultimate craptastic Tuesday. No argument there, that's for sure. In my mind it's hard to believe that 11 years have passed since that awful day. The memories are still so fresh and vivid in my head. It's amazing and sad how much things in our world have changed since then. The biggest thing that comes to mind for me is the entire airport experience. Not only has security been beefed up (I am completely okay with this) but before 9/11, you could meet people at the gate and see them as soon as they disembarked from the plane. Remember how much fun it was to get off the plane and have someone waiting for you? I distinctly recall several times waiting to meet Steve as he arrived from an overseas trip. Sadly, those days are long gone, along with real silverware in airport restaurants and nail clippers in your carry-on.

I think if you surveyed the population of Americans old enough to remember September 11, 2001, each person would be able to tell you what they were doing at the time. I know I certainly do. I was in my second year of teaching in NOVA (Northern Virginia) and it was the second week of school. The second week of school, teachers are still getting to know their students and vice versa. I was fortunate enough to be teaching at the newest high school in Fairfax County (at the time) and we had TV's in every classroom. I was actually on my planning period when the first plane struck. We turned on the news thinking a plane had obviously had some kind of mechanical error. With minutes of watching the news, the second plane struck. Rocket science wasn't needed after that, we quickly gathered to see what on earth was happening. Many of my colleagues at the time were from NYC and still had family there. As they tried to reach their families, most without success, the enormity of what was happening hit me.

And then the plane from Dulles International Airport hit the Pentagon. All bets were off. You see, my school bordered the property of Dulles. All hell broke loose and our school went into immediate lockdown (as did all schools around the region). At that point, our principal came over the loudspeaker to inform the students and staff what was going on. It was chaotic, to say the very least, because at that point, there were rumors flying around that other buildings in DC had been hit. I was quite proud of our principal and the way he handled the situation. He didn't try to hide what was going on from the kids and instead, asked that we as a staff try to ease the frantic minds of our students and let them watch what was going on. To this day, it was still the most difficult day of my teaching career. Parents arrived in an uproar to pick up their kids. Since we were in lockdown, parents had to show ID in order to have their child released. I remember when the bell sounded to move to the next class, the hallways were silent, the kids just didn't know what to say. Many of them were worried about the safety of their parents - most of my students had parents who worked in DC for the federal government and some even at the Pentagon.

My school was lucky that day, we didn't lose any parents to the Pentagon, World Trade Center or the Pennsylvania crash. Some families lost relatives and loved ones at our neighboring schools. I remember driving home from school on empty roads, as most people had left hours before to get home to their families. Traffic on I-395 in DC was rerouted so that all directions were heading out of the city. It was hours before I was able to reach my parents due to phone lines being tied up. My roommate and I just stared at our TV for hours, not even really knowing what to say.

Ironically, what I remember most from 9/11, was actually two days later. We returned to school, after having 9/12 off, and our principal had our school chorus sing the Star Spangled Banner, acapella, for the entire school. It was the sweetest sound I'd ever heard and to this day, it still gives me chills to think about hearing it for the first time after the tragedy.

Perhaps we, as Americans, had become too complacent with our liberties. September 11 serves as a reminder that freedom should never be taken for granted. I'm proud to be an American and I'm so grateful to have the opportunity every day to make my own choices and decisions regarding my life and how I live it. That's definitely something worth fighting for.

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