Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflection: Ten Years Later

The sky was filled with clouds that seemed to dance across the blue sky. Walking into the school that day, I remember the beauty. The thought that the kids had to get out and play also entered my mind.
It was the first full week of my first Kindergarten class. Luckily, I had been a student teacher the previous fall with many of the children in their inclusive preschool, so we were quite familiar with each other.
As they walked into the room that morning, we were unaware of the life changing events that were occurring only a short train ride away.
I taught in a small town in New Jersey where many of its inhabitants commuted into New York City. In my class of eight, one father worked daily while another made frequent trips. . Their children knew of the taxis and buses, crowds and chaos.
The City was part of their daily life.
It was part of all of our lives.
Being only the fourth day of school, routines were not routine. Our cadence as a group had yet to be established, and so tasks like morning circle were drawn out. In between singing the days of the week and clapping the months of the year, a fellow teacher came to the door. Excusing myself for a moment, I walked over. In hushed tones she relayed the news of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.
My heart dropped,
But I had to return back to the room.
Pasting a smile on my face, I finished. Only after, as the children were returning their chairs to the table, did I share this news with my classroom assistant.
Without more then a shared gasp, we looked to those little faces.
Their concerns at the moment involved who would sit next to whom. No knowledge of the incident had entered their mind, and that is how it would remain.
We continued on, academic tasks to perform.
On a quick trip to the restroom, I noticed a television had been set up in the teacher lounge. Pausing for a moment, I stood with a coworker. It was at that moment the first tower fell. Our arms reached for each others, an embrace as we witnessed the horror. As I stepped away, into the stall. I let out a gasp and brushed a few tears away.
I had to return to my class, to my responsibilities.
But how?
Walking back to the classroom, I thought of the father who worked in the City. Unsure of his work address, I prayed it was far from the debris.
Taking a deep breath, I walked through the door.
Small faces turned toward me, their smiles contagious, as in chorus, they said "Hello Miss L" as they finished their snack.
For the remainder of the day, I was an actor, playing the part of teacher.
Information would come throughout the day, from the principal walking the halls, to a therapist picking up a student for services. A picture emerged of the events of the day. As these pieces came together, we continued on: Reviewing colors, reading aloud, and free time. The daily activities keeping these little people busy and oblivious to the terror.
A disembodied voice echoed the classroom walls, as we prepared for lunch.
"O's mom is here to pick her up for the day." our school secretary relayed. "Can you bring her down with her things."
As I walked her down to the office. O grabbed my hand. Her mother, with a frantic look on her face, raced over and showered O with kisses and an embrace.
Hesitating, I asked.
"Have you heard from your husband?"
Thankfully, he was safe, and as a precaution she wanted her family together.
Walking back to the classroom, the principal stopped me. We were instructed to remain inside that day.
No one knew what had happened, would could happen. In addition, with the City being so close, thoughts of air pollution tainted our minds. As a precaution were to refrain from the playground during recess.
The sky remained clear, blue, beautiful.
The school day continued, at a snails pace. Dismissal could not come quick enough.
Hurrying home, but a few miles away, Bry's car was already in the drive.
Walking up the stairs to our apartment, I heard muffled voices behind the door.
Upon entering I found Bry and his friend, Jim sitting on our couch, watching the footage.
Both law school students, their classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day. Their law school overlooking the New York skyline, gave many a first hand view of the devastation.
Bry had learned of the events from a note passed amongst his classmates.
We sat watching the footage in disbelief.
I wondered how we could go on?
What would the landscape of our lives look like now?
How could we ever feel safe again?
I know I was not alone with my questions.
Life had to go on, but at what pace?
It started slowly, our recovery.
But that next day, I had school. Back to those little faces and so I continued to act.
I pretended everything was okay, so that they would feel fine, even if I did not feel the least bit fine.
Eventually, over time, I found it easier, and the act dissolved.
However, things would never be the same.

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