Engaging Each Day with Action Words

Remember. — My Unremarkable 9/11 Story

on September 11, 2013
My 9/11 story is not that remarkable. In the big scheme of events that day.
I don’t live in New York City.
I don’t have close family that live there.
I didn’t lose anyone in the towers or in the Pentagon or in that field in Pennsylvania.
Instead, I was at my little elementary school, teaching 5th graders.
Seemingly safe.
500 miles away.
I didn’t spend hours trudging down a stairwell or walking across a bridge.
I never, not once, had to run from falling debris and dust.
I didn’t get frustrated on the phone, trying to get a hold of loved ones, praying and worrying about their well being.
Instead, I did what I did every day. I did my job. I taught my students. I kept going with my unremarkable tasks of the day.
The only difference was…that everything was different.
That morning, I was walking down to the copy room, while my students were in Art class, when I noticed that several teachers had their TV on,  which I thought was very odd.
I stopped by a colleague’s room and she shared that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.
I thought…
Oh my goodness, what a horrible accident! Oh my goodness, I was JUST THERE a two months before. I had spent my dream vacation in New York City. My Soul Vacation. A week in the beautiful New York, seeing Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, sunbathing in Central Park, exploring places by myself, pretending to be a New Yorker. I had met Katie Couric on the Today Show.
photo (5)
I had sprained my ankle so bad that it was swollen like a softball and still I managed to make it to the top of the Empire State Building to get my picture taken with the Twin Towers in the background. (All with a sad, severely sprained ankle, pouty face.)
photo (4)
And as I was thinking about my week in NYC, just as we were standing there chatting and watching the images of smoke and flames, we heard that another plane had hit. I couldn’t believe it…I couldn’t make sense of it. I couldn’t breathe.

But I also couldn’t stand around and try to figure it out or even begin to process it right then. Because I had 19 ten year olds waiting for me. I went down the hall and collected them, leading them back to our classroom. During that three minute walk, I’m sure that I experienced the full range of emotions from terror to pretending to be calm.

I remember that I just wanted to hold them all so close. Every one of them. I was scared. But I didn’t want them to know I was scared. I didn’t want them to be scared. So, I did what we did. Everyday.

We sat together in our little classroom “island” corner with the palm tree shower curtain on the wall, as we did every day by the rocking chair, and read a book. I couldn’t tell them anything, because I didn’t know what to tell them. So then I just told them how proud I was of them and talked about their amazing potential to change the world and make it all a better place.

I’m sure that they were thinking, “What is up with Mrs. Z. and her mushiness today?!”

Throughout the day, as information came out, our principal would type up a memo and show up at our door to hand us a piece of paper with the latest updates. I remember reading each one, fighting back tears, and then passing it to my colleague who worked in my room.

photo (3)   photo (6)

We would exchange looks of fear and concern and then try to shake it off and teach our … Math lesson, like we did every day.

We kept going. All day long. We made the day safe and normal for our students even when we were terrified and worried and shaking. And at the end of the day, when we got them all on their buses, sent them home to be with their parents and families, we turned on the news and watched the images and tried to comprehend a world that now included these pictures for our students.

And ourselves.

Like you. Like everyone. I will never forget.

Not because my September 11, 2001 story is all that remarkable at all.

But because I did what I did everyday.

I kept going.

Like everyone tried to dothat day.

Like I do every day.

And I keep trying to make my little corner of the world just a little bit of a better place.


Let’s All, Go. Do that.

Especially today.


3 responses to “Remember. — My Unremarkable 9/11 Story

  1. rarasaur says:

    Nobody’s day was really unremarkable that day. All of us kept going, and that’s something. All of us thought on how we are all connected, and that is something too. Remarkable somethings, really.

    *hugs* Thanks for being a great teacher, a great mom, and for sharing your story.

  2. That day was unremarkable for your neighbours in the north – we struggled to keep going too. I was working in the downtown and the whole core was “sent home”. Hundreds of people stuffed in buses and subway cars, but it was the quietest commute in history. As hard as it was not to share, I appreciated that Big Guy’s teachers didn’t so we could face our fear and confusion (and horror) together in our “island”. Thank you!

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