Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 From the Perspective of a 10 Year Old

Today is a day like any other. There are people struggling, people laughing, people working, and people like me who will be studying, maybe watching some television, and doing other normal day to day things. So I would like to take a few moments to reflect on the tragedy that occurred 10 years ago today. Because if I don't get anything else accomplished today, I want to be able to say that I reflected on the events of 9/11 and sent a prayer to God to be with all those still mourning from this horrific event.

I was 10 years old on 9/11/2001. I was sitting in Mrs. Chasnoff's fifth grade classroom at Dickinson Elementary School. It is a little foggy, but I remember the important details. I believe Mrs. Brown, my other teacher from next door came in and asked to speak to Mrs. Chasnoff in the hallway. It was a little strange for Mrs. Brown to interrupt our class but it didn't seem that out of the ordinary, perhaps she just needed Mrs. Chasnoff to watch her class for a moment while she ran to the office or the bathroom or something. But the moment Mrs. Chasnoff came back into the room, we all knew something bad had happened. Though I know our young minds couldn't even begin to imagine what she was about to tell us.

Mrs. Chasnoff reentered the room in tears. Though this was not the first time we had seen our wonderfully sweet teacher tear up, it was the first time we didn't know why. She would tear up when we said something sweet to her. We were used to happy tears. These were not happy tears. The worry in her eyes had all of us immediately tense. Something terrible must have happened to force our always happy and easily smily teacher to be this upset. She immediately commanded our attention as she stood before us, though clearly struggling for words. If I remember correctly she first reassured us that we were safe in her classroom but that something bad had happened in New York. That some bad people had flown a plane into our Twin Towers.

I think my first reaction was to question why that upset her so much. We weren't in New York. We were in Texas. That was so far away. This couldn't be that bad could it? I remember looking around the room, looking at the faces of my friends, as many of them were doing the same thing, trying to calculate what emotion I should be feeling. Some of them were crying, some stared blankly at Mrs. Chasnoff as if they didn't understand a word she was saying. And then there were the majority of us, who I image looked something similar to me. We knew if Mrs. Chasnoff was crying like this, and trying to break the news to us lightly, without upsetting us, that it was in fact something to be upset about.

She turned on the television, never one to hide the truth from her young students. And we watched, very briefly, just before someone came over the intercom asking the teachers not to turn on the televisions, the smoke billowing from the Tower, and then the second one being hit. I don't think I knew how to feel. At this point I knew this was bad. I knew someone had attacked our country, trying to hurt all of us, but I couldn't comprehend why. We're America. We're a nearly perfect society of equal opportunity and free speech so why would anyone be against us? These questions caused a few tears to slip from my young eyes.

Mrs. Chasnoff turned off the television and we tried to get back to learning. This was almost impossible as there were parents coming up to the school all day long picking up their children. I kept thinking, why are their parents coming to get them? Are we in trouble here? Could something bad happen in my safe little neighborhood school? Surely not. Of course up until that point I couldn't imagine anything happening to my safe little America, and look how that turned out.

I think the full impact of the devastation of that morning hit me when I got home, and my mom was crying. I had a lot of questions for her that I had been afraid to ask Mrs. Chasnoff in front of my peers. So questions spilled out to my mom. "What are the twin towers?" "Who did this?" "What are terrorists?" "Why did they do this?" "Are we in a war?" And once I fully understood the situation and devastation we sat on our comfy couch, in our comfy, safe home, and watched the continuously horrific footage displayed on nearly every channel. We sat, and we cried.

I think all of us old enough to at least grasp the significance of this event were changed forever. This is the event that we lived through, the day that we will be able to tell our grandchildren about, and the day that I as a teacher, will have to teach my students about. At least I have time to prepare for that. Mrs. Chasnoff didn't.

So today, even though I will be going about usual business, preparing for class this week, watching television, playing around on Facebook, I remember. Because I remember every day. Because it has affected who I am as a person and who we are as a nation. 


To all the police officers, fire fighters, families of loved ones lost, and all others who were affected more deeply than most of us can imagine, my heart goes out to you and I will pray for you and your continued strength.



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