Some days you just never forget, and September 11, 2001 just happens to be one of those days for me. I’m a Canadian. I truly have NO ties to the United States whatsoever. I don’t even have friends who are Americans. So when the events of 9-11 took place, I was a little surprised by the depth of my emotion. Those immediate moments that followed the attacks are tattooed on my brain, never to be removed.
I, like so many of you remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the moment I was notified of the attacks on the Twin Towers. As a matter of fact, September 2001 marked my first year of teaching! I had only been teaching for 4 days. So, I was the hyper, enthusiastic, overly-positive kind of teacher. I was standing in the gym, supervising a Junior Choir session. The kids were singing happily, as their eyes bounced across the screen where the overhead shone. I remember the little bounce I had in my body (despite having no dancing skills, and a guarded nature when rocking to music in front of others) as children sang and enjoyed every second of it. In walked my principal, Jim. He bee-lined over to me with a blank, awkward look in his eye. Jim was a happy, smiley, kind of guy…so I felt as though I might have been in trouble for something. When he entered my personal space, to whisper into my ear, I felt quite anxious. Then the words dropped out, like an anchor drops from a ship. “The World Trade Center Towers in NY City have been attacked.” It feels strange to admit to this, but my first thought was that Jim was trying to play some kind of weird joke on me, the rookie teacher. But as I pulled back and looked into his eyes, I knew it was true. He went on to tell me that staff were to report to the Staff Room at 10:30 for a meeting.
Shock, confusion, sorrow, emptiness. That is how I felt in those minutes and hours that followed. But, it wasn’t over yet. As the morning wore on, the information just kept coming about the other attacks that day. It almost felt like it was some kind of “End of the World” experience. What was going to happen next? At lunch, staff were just dumbstruck as we watched the news and listened to the radio. The reports were so surreal, recounting events like they were parts of a book.
But the day wore on, and I did my best to overcome the flat feeling, while in front of my students. I went about the usual schedule and “acted” the part of hyper, enthusiastic, overly-positive teacher. It was soooooo hard. I’m not really an emotional person, fairly concrete in fact. But this day had struck a chord, my body had never played before. At the end of the day, the director of the school board had drafted a letter to go home to every household. I was instructed to hand-out the letter at the very last, possible moment of the day. I was also instructed to tell students not to read the letter and to just take it home for their parents to read. It was such an odd sensation. What do you think my 11-year old students wanted to do when I told them that?
It was my own home time now. I got in my car and started the 40 minute drive. I listened to CBC Radio One, as the anchors reported every detail. The sorrow and disbelief was palpable over the air. I could hardly believe my ears. When I got home I turned on the TV. Those images played over and over, burning into my brain. I was waiting for my boyfriend to come home, just so we could talk and share in our disbelief.
That night, I was to go and coach a large-scale volleyball try-out. Our club was expecting 75 to 100 athletes. I was secretly waiting for a phone call to cancel the practice. But it never came. After seeing the images of the towers crumble and the Pentagon burn, I began to get numb. It was as if I was leaving my body. But the time did come, it was time for me to head to the gym, and pull off a pumped-up, fired-up volleyball try-out. Another staged event for the day. For someone who HATES being ONstage, but loves being BACKstage – this was a hell of a day!
All the coaches did survive the try-out. There was a buzz in the gym, and you know what all of the adults were talking about. Finally, it was time to go home.I snuggled up with my boyfriend and we just talked about how unbelievable this tragedy was. These attackes could have happen anywhere, we said. And so, the USA began their long, tumultuous, costly journey through The War on Terror. It’s been that way ever since.
9-11. It was a day that I will never… ever… forget.
What were you doing September 11, 2001?