On September 11th, I had just begun my second year as principal of a Christian elementary school. We had hired a third grade teacher who was not able to be with us for the first three weeks, and that morning, like those before it, I sat at the desk of our absent third grade teacher, filling in.
Our school secretary walked into the room quietly and placed a post-it note on my desk that read “a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center”. A quick chill ran down my spine and a feeling of helplessness and sadness rose in my chest as I dismissed the event as a tragic accident, yet none-the-less an accident. I went on about my business wondering what she wanted me to do.
A few minutes later, the secretary appeared a second time. With a more desperate look on her face, she crossed the room and gently whispered, “a second plane hit the Pentagon.” My head began to spin, a feeling of total helplessness and confusion welled up in me as I thought to myself, “what do I do?””What can I do? What do I say to my class….to all the classes?”
I quickly arranged for the third grade to join second grade and rushed to the office to see if there had been any further news. The office staff had rolled a TV into the hallway where we could recive transmissions from our local channels and I rounded the corner just in time to see the second tower speared by an oncoming plane. Horror and disbelief ran through me. It was if I were watching a Hollywood version of the last days. I started to ask myself and God if this were to be the beginning of “the end.” How many more planes were on their way to disasters? Were we safe, any of us? What do I tell the children?
With great sadness in my heart, I went from one classroom to another telling the students of the tragedies that had occurred. A simple statement, “Planes have struck the twin towers in New York City and our Pentagon. Many people have been killed, others are trapped in the buildings. We need to pray for them, their families and their rescuers. We don’t know all that is happening, but we know that God is in charge and that He loves us.” As you would expect, the children had only a vague idea of what was happening, but I couldn’t help thinking that they probably understood about as much as we did at the time.
As time passed, we saw the towers fall, and we cried and prayed together. Some families came to take their children home. You could see the horrified looks that spoke more than words. We all wondered if there would be a tomorrow. We knew that today, at least we wanted our loved ones close.
At one o’clock, we assembled together in the auditorium. One of our dear friends, Don Treadway, who has often taught the children in chapel came and led us in prayer. The children seemed more calm and reassured. Many parents called and said they felt safer with their children at school than anywhere else. They expressed their appreciation for handling this event in a sensitive manner.
Weve been able to move past that day, a little at a time, and allow the healing to begin. Our world as we now it will never be the same. Yet through it all, there has been a sense of calm and assurance for we knew then, as we know now, that God is with us. I wonder daily how those who do not know Him can handle the tragedies of this world.
“From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us.”