So thirteen years ago, on 9/11/01, I was in my classroom, getting ready to teach. I had first block off that semester, so there were no kids with me and I hadn't even turned on the computer because I had a bunch of papers to grade and I didn't want the distraction of email and all the rest. But then around 8 AM CST, I walked over to the counseling center to get something. And the talk had begun. A plane had hit the World Trade Center. And I thought, terrible. But I also thought, must be a small plane. Because what else, right?
Of course, by the time my first class of the day tumbled in a little before 9 AM CST, I knew differently. And not long after that, well, you know the rest.
What I remember most distinctly from that day where terrible things were happening but here in Houston we were watching them unfold on the screen and not knowing what to do or what was truly happening is how both responsible and impotent I felt. I had classroom after classroom of kids coming to me that day. (school stayed in session. I think no one could get their heads around a national emergency of this scope then. Now it would be different, I think, but I am not sure) I didn't know what to tell them or how to comfort them and honestly after the towers were fallen, I turned off the computer monitor periodically because watching was becoming too much for some students and I think we tried to read a story that we were going to read. Not for any reason than because we were in shock, we were (as far as we could tell) safe, and we didn't know what else to do. Plus, there was the weird thing where the remove of watching it on the screen wasn't sinking in to some of the 10th graders under my watch. It was like watching a movie to them. They weren't getting that it was real and I think in the moment I thought if I let it just sit in their heads for a bit, they'll get it. Which for the most part they did.
My own son was in his own school during that day-- the high school across the high way from where I taught. And my husband was actually at the airport and had been about to take off on a business trip to Chicago. The phone lines were so busy that it took a frantic long hour before I knew he wasn't already in the air as he was supposed to be.
And so it's been since then. Each year remembering the moment. The horrific day. The dead.
Last time I was in NYC, I rode the subway down the World Trade site and stood amidst the crowds headed to work and looked up at the new building. I went to the Memorial. (lots of New Yorkers I know have no desire to go, by the way. They remember in their own way. But for me it was a good thing.) It was a sunny June day then. After that, I rode the subway back and had my first visit to the Soho Press offices, then walked up Broadway with my editor Dan Ehrenhaft (who has his own stories of that awful day) and then when we parted ways, I walked up 5th Avenue back to mid town. I stopped and although I'd done it before and it's so touristy, I went to the top of the Empire State Building on my way.
I love you New York.
Today and all days.