Sunday, September 11, 2011

Do you remember

this day, ten years ago?

I do.

From our high school librarian running in, panicked, saying that the World Trade Center tower had been hit, to everyone in my tiny school packing into the library to watch the news all day. We watched the second tower get hit. We watched them both fall. We didn't--couldn't--understand. We watched footage of the UA flight 93 crash scene after it went down in that Pennsylvania field, only to later learn of the bravery of those people on board.

On that day, teachers and administrators and students were all equals. We all sat together, without any sense of order, and watched the tragedy unfold before our very eyes. Many people came and went, but I sat in the same chair all day. My friends never moved. We couldn't move. We were transfixed and mortified, horrified for the loss of life. Horrified for those people with family and friends that were lost in the rubble. Horrified at the sights of desperation, of the people jumping from windows, trying to save themselves. It was a jolt of reality, and one that I won't ever forget.

And I remember it all. But what I remember most vividly wasn't on the television that day. Isolated far away in tiny-town Texas, we were all safe. No one had any family or friends in the WTC or aboard those planes.

A couple hours into the tragedy, the room was particularly quiet. Many students had been picked up by their parents and taken home, and so the number crammed into our modest library was decreased.

For some reason, I glanced around the room. And my heart stopped beating. There, sitting near the back, was my math teacher. A former United States Marine, survivor of multiple tours in many war-torn places of the world. Brave recipient of a Purple Heart, along with several other decorations. A great teacher and person.

And father to a son working in the Pentagon.

I'll never forget seeing the tears stream down his face. Or the look of abject horror as the news played the reels of the attack again and again. Or the quiet, terse conversation he had with his wife, also a teacher at our school. The pain in their eyes because they couldn't reach their son; the son who had just been promoted to a Pentagon window office.

On this day ten years ago, there was no such thing as far-removed, tiny-town Texas. We were all right there in NYC, the Pennsylvania field, and the Pentagon. Today, we stand together again as one nation bound by tragedy, and we remember.

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