I was teaching middle school in Chicago on 09/11/01. One of my students came into class a bit late and during morning prayers, asked that we pray for the people whose plane crashed in NY.
About 10 minutes later, I sent my 8th grade homeroom off to religion and history and welcomed my 7th graders for Language Arts. Just as we were taking out “Romeo and Juliet,” my friend from across the hall came in to tell me that a second plane hit the towers in NY. While I digested this news, I collected homework – silently praying for what I knew was no longer an accident.
A few minutes later, she was back to tell me the Pentagon had been hit as well. I was picking up the phone to call my principal to ask what I could share with the kids when he entered the room and told me to turn on the TV. The pastor and principal had made the decision to not tell K-5, but to let 6-8 watch as history was unfolding before our eyes.
We turned on the TV to see smoke coming out of the Pentagon. Ticker tape rolled along the bottom of the screen and we learned that the Stock Exchange was closed and trading suspended for the day. We talked about being safe in our school and shared our collective disbelief. Since my set was older, I didn’t have the best picture, so I spoke frequently with the history teacher. I was on the phone with him when he yelled, “I have to go. The tower’s collapsing.” I stood there holding the phone and thinking how is that even possible? Later, when my 8th graders returned from history, I hugged and consoled kids who had watched the towers fall before their eyes.
We did no teaching that day! We talked a lot about the state of our country and how this would impact our spring trip to DC (we went and things were fine). We talked about faith. We hugged, cried and prayed. And we talked about what we could do to help (my Student Council raised money for the Red Cross).
When we went outside for recess, we marveled at the beautiful blue sky. I remember looking up at our flag at half-mast and being so proud to be an American as I knew we would band together during this terrible tragedy.
That night as I watched the footage after calling all of my friends and loved one, I thought back to my day. I’m always proud to be a teacher, but I was very proud to have been one that day as I witnessed a change in our world and was able to share it with “my kids.” We have been forever bonded by that experience.
I have taught many classes before and since, but that class will always have a special place in my heart.
Today, as I still shed tears for the people who died that day, I am also grateful for the all of the heroes! That’s what I now talk about with my own children. Today is a day for remembering heroes and being proud to be an American.
God bless America!