I was looking through pictures of my former students last night. I'm trying to put together a portfolio of my teaching career, from those first years as a public school music teacher, to this year, as I've been teaching a music class for infants/toddlers. Love Bug is my demonstration tool and does an excellent job.
So, as I was going through the pictures, so many faces made me smile and laugh. But one girl stuck out immediately and seeing her face made me very sad. I couldn't figure out why, because I liked her a lot. She didn't get into trouble and was very helpful, so why did seeing her make me feel so upset?
Today I remembered why. On September 11th, 2001, she was late to school. She was a member of the middle school chorus and we had rehearsal during first period. She walked in at about 10:00, when we were nearly finished. She told me that she had been outside listening to the radio because a plane had smashed into the World Trade Center in New York. At first I thought it was the typical excuse for being late, and that maybe she was confused about the news story. Oh, how I wish I had been right and she had been wrong.
Twenty minutes later, as class was about to let out, there was a knock and the principal handed me a letter that was "only for my eyes". I read the letter in disbelief and horror, and did my best to hide my shock at the attacks on our country. Once the students were out the door, I had a planning period, so I used the time to call my husband (fiance at this point) and fortunately, he was already on his way home. He started to cry when he heard my voice, and right then, I knew it was bad. I told him I'd get home as soon as I could, but they had explained in the letter that parents were being notified and should start coming to pick up their kids, but who knew when they'd all be picked up.
I took some second grade students so that their teachers could leave and go find their own children and husbands, and we spent almost 2 hours playing games and reading stories. Since we were supposed to let their parents tell them, I imagine that it was a very strange day for the kids... playing games, having fun with me, and then once they got in the car, seeing their parents faces crumble and trying to explain as simply as possible, what horrible things had happened.
The next few days were a blur. We had just gotten engaged, so when we got phone calls in panic saying, "are you okay?" We replied, "yes, and we're engaged." Not exactly a happy way to tell everyone.
We eventually turned off the TV... it was just so much... almost too much to handle. Although we were living just outside Washington, DC, we were fortunate to not know anyone who died in the Pentagon. But I knew of them, and cried for those people working just miles from me at that very moment. My heard still aches for their families.
Just six years later, I sit amazed at how much our world has changed and how unsafe it feels. And I'm sorry to say that I will always think of my student, the girl who was late on September 11th, with a little bit of sadness.