I was delivering my brand-new class of fifth graders to music when I first knew something was wrong. Another teacher, eyes already red and expression already strained, murmured words like national emergency, plane crash, and not-an-accident.
I couldn’t get online, couldn’t get a cell signal, but somehow managed to reach my mom from the phone in the teachers’ room. My mother is always calm, but that morning she was hysterical, relaying the sound of fighter planes in the Washington, D.C. sky and the rumors that the White House and Capital were next.
Just outside Boston, there was no telling how many school families would be personally affected, and the Superintendent spread the word that we wouldn’t tell students anything that day. They knew something as going on: scared parents picking their children up early, tense teachers interrupting each other’s classes to share what little we knew. My own students – they would become my favorite class in nearly ten years of teaching, and I just now wonder how much that September morning tipped the scales – laughed when I told them to “talk about the spelling words, or, you know, anything” while I whispered in the hall. Once they got home and learned the truth, it was that moment that proved I’d been hiding something. The next morning they shook their heads and said, You knew. You knew and you didn’t tell us.
But first the rest of that day. The emergency staff meeting after school. Learning that a new teacher’s brother had been on one of the planes, driving home along strangely empty streets, gathering with friends to watch and cry and wonder. My love and I huddled, sleepless, feeling no safer for the sound of warplanes patrolling above.
It’s been ten years. Ten years of politics and war, of hate and hope and incredible love. Ten years that can disappear in an instant, leaving me as shaken and sad as I was that beautiful, awful day.