In only my third year of teaching in 2001, I was walking in between bells to the classroom that I taught homeroom. This was the classroom where all the important messages that the school passed on through me to the students. It was my job to connect with these kids and support them. These were "my kids". On the way there, a student in the hall said "Mr. B, I just heard that a plane flew into the World Trade Tower" I thought, that can't be right and shrugged it off as student misinformation.
Headed to my class with impressionable teenagers I had no idea what I had to face that day. I witnessed the horror of 9/11 with those kids that day on our classroom monitors. The room was the most silent it had been in all my years of teaching. What was I going to say to them to make it all better? I was at a loss for words.
I didn't know what to say. I don’t think anyone did. What could I say to them that would make them feel secure again? I had no idea. So, I thought of the one thing that always made me feel better, write down what I was feeling. As the towers crumbled so did our idea of safety that day. That feeling of being secure was taken from us and we felt lost and angry. Some of us still do.
During and after 9/11 it was hard to go back to teaching. How could I go on with my lesson with this going on? I couldn't ; all I kept thinking about were the people affected and if my best friend in NYC had been anywhere near it when it happened. How are you supposed to go on with life when something like this happens?
I spent days after that just talking with kids and having them write down their feelings. When I resigned from the school in 2008 I cleaned out my desk and found their journals. I still have them. Every emotion written in page after page of children's minds. I can tell you, that kids need to be reassured. Kids need to know that we want to keep them safe and that we are going to do everything we can to make sure that they are.
My wife was supposed to be staying in the hotel in one of the towers while visiting there with friends. At the last second, plans changed and they decided to stay at someone's house instead and headed out of the city. That part of fate has altered my life forever. Without that change, I might have never met my wife and thus would not have the life I have now or my children.
9/11 also changed our nation forever. It made us realize how we were vulnerable but also that we were strong. The people that lost their lives that day and the responders at Ground Zero showed just what America was made of. It didn't make us cower and hide, it made us strengthen our resolve. After the dust cleared and Americans started picking up the pieces again, you would see people driving around with flags in their cars; hanging flags out their windows.
The flag showed up more and more. Instead of it coming out for July 4th, it became a permanent staple in our everyday society. We still see the strength in the American people today when tragedy strikes. We have seen it in Sandy Hook in how the teachers responded and in the bombing in Boston. 9/11 made us reassess the way we travelled and how we handled security in this country. For many reasons it changed us but at the terrible loss of so many innocent lives.
I for one am flying my flag today. Whether it be at half mast or displayed proudly on your Facebook page we honor the victims and responders that died today. We will never forget you.