Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago

I was in my very first month of teaching fourth grade at Trinity School of Durham & Chapel Hill. My kids had Latin class four times a week, one of the first items on our daily schedule just after our morning work and devotion time. Magister Meyer came to my classroom to teach them and so for forty-five minutes I had a planning period. That morning, I headed downstairs to see if there was any coffee in the front office and walked in to find the office staff gathered around a radio. This was really out of the norm and I asked what was going on.

"Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center," said the receptionist, Jennifer.

The World Trade Center? I didn't know what that was or even where that was. Even though my dad was from New York and we had visited the city a few times, we had only ever done our sightseeing uptown. I had to ask Jennifer where the WTC was and she told me, also calling it the Twin Towers. It's so bizarre to me now that until that day, I had no real knowledge of their existence. Like everyone, I was glued to the radio, listening to the little bit of news that was coming in and anxiously watching the clock for when I would need to head back up to my classroom.

I was by that radio when the word came in that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. One of my best friends, one of the E-Ranchers who I had just lived with, Anna, had moved to DC and I had no idea if she worked close to the Pentagon or not. I used my new cell phone to call and left a worried voicemail for her. 

Our headmaster, Chip, had been in the office while I was there and told us that he had decided not to say anything about the day's events to our lower school students (kindergarten through fifth grade). He wanted the parents of these young ones to decide how they would initially tell their children about this horrific thing that had occurred. I completely respected his decision and was more relieved than anything about it. I had no idea how to process what I was hearing myself, much less walk my nine year old students through it that day. 

By this time, I needed to head back up to my little group of twelve. I had just a few minutes before Magister would hand the class back over to me. I sat down at my computer, adjusted the monitor so my kids couldn't see it and tried to wrap my brain around the unbelievable images on the screen.

I couldn't.

I taught the rest of the day in shock, maintaining a face of normality as best I could for my kids. There was no more time that day to be at the computer. I didn't see the towers fall. We did car line as usual at dismissal, gathered as a faculty to pray and then I raced home to the apartment I shared with a friend from church. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening, glued to the couch watching the heartbreaking footage over and over and over again. I finally turned it off around ten, my head aching and completely overloaded with too much information, too many images, too many wonderings about what it must have been like for the people in those planes and buildings.

In the days that followed, I suppose I mourned Tuesday's events like most Americans. I cried, I raged, I feared more attacks. I prayed a lot, both at school with my kids and on my own. My kids were incredible in their nine year old theology and the day after 9/11 when it came time to pray, they reminded me that God tells us to pray for our enemy, to forgive. So we prayed that way even as we watched our country go to war.

Eight years later, on another anniversary of 9/11, I would pray again with a different group of kids. One sweet boy prayed a prayer that will stand true on this day and every day,
"Dear God, please be with the people at the Pentagon and Twin Towers today. I know they feel bad and I hope you will help them not feel bad. Lord, this is a complicated world in these hard times. Please save the people who need you, God."

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