9/11: It started like any ordinary day.
After maternity leave, I’m still getting the hang of getting out of the house on time each morning. I’m up early enough to have some ‘me’ time – 5:30 a.m. – before the pitter patter of my 23-month-old boy’s feet signal the start of mommy-time. Must plan Cameron’s birthday party for next weekend, I think. Coffee made, candles lit, I start up the desktop as part of my morning ritual, eager to check email and read the news. Having children broke us of our TV news habit when we realized they were transfixed with images of stark reality we were trying so desperately to shelter them from.
A breaking news alert flashes into my inbox – “Plane crashes into building in New York.” Hmm. I’ve never been to New York. Worlds away from my cozy study. I hope it’s nothing serious.
Pitter patter pitter patter…here comes my boy, blankie, and book in hand. My heart thrills at the sight of his big round head. “Make sister juice,” he chimes with a smile as big as any Cheshire cat. I switch off the computer, eager to start the morning snuggle and reading time. It is just another ordinary day.
The 11-mile commute to school is nothing unusual. I drive past the harvested tomato fields, crop dusters skim the highway. Lesson plans fill my mind. Exit right, then left, then straight down the walnut tree-shrouded road towards Douglass Junior High, where my 7th grade English students stand lined up, waiting for me.
“Hey, did you hear about the plane crash?” they shout as I open the door.
“Yes, I did,” I answer, and switch on the lights. “Let’s get started.”
“But, can’t we watch the TV? I have an aunt that lives in New York, and I’m worried,” a child pleads.
“TV? When do we ever watch TV in class?” I respond with a smile. ‘Let’s get started – it’s grammar day everyone’s favorite!”
Moments later, an announcement is delivered by a TA telling us the grim news. Not one plane crash, now it’s two. What??? The Pentagon? Three planes? Buildings collapsed? People dying? But it’s just an ordinary day!
Why don’t I have my cell phone? This ancient classroom has no Internet; the only technology is the old TV mounted in the corner of the classroom. Where are my babies? Did Lily make it to kindergarten? What the hell is going on? I want to go home…
Thoughts flash through my head as I try to process what to do. Thirty sets of eyes stare at me, searching for comfort. I’m the teacher. I’m in charge. I know what to do? Frantic thoughts of my own children race through my mind. Are they OK? What will happen to us? Are the terrorists on their way?
Then I realize-someone is taking care of my children, just as I’m taking care of someone else’s. I know what to do. They need me to make sense of it. That’s what I would want my child’s teacher to do. Reluctantly, yet desperately, I turn on the TV. I have to know. I can’t wait all day.
After two hours, no word from my family, I switch it off. Business as usual – that’s what educators do. Keep them calm, keep them busy. I know it’s only going to get worse, and it’s only 10 a.m.
Two more hours and I’m done. As I jump in my little gold Escort wagon, I’ve never been so relieved to only work part-time; 11 miles fly by-not enough time to decide how to explain the unexplainable to my 5-year-old. The radio news drones on and on. Thousands dead. The children. The mommies and daddies who will never commute home again. The parents who will never see their babies again. The young people who will never have the joy of holding their child in their arms. It’s more than I can bear. The tears stream down my face as I safely reach home. It’s clearly not just an ordinary day.
‘Mommy, why are you sad? What happened at school today?” Lily whispers, her big blue eyes boring into mine. How do I answer? She’s only five. Far too young to have to learn about such horrors. I tell her a story about a plane crashing and good guys trying to stop the bad guys. “Did the bad guy go to jail?” she questions.
“No, he died,” I reply, choking back tears at her innocence.
“I’m sorry he died, Mommy. But I’m glad that we weren’t on that plane.”
“Me too, baby. Me, too.” I realize it may never be an ordinary day again.
mamawolfeSeptember 14, 2011
Hi Dee~ my kids really don’t remember anything. In fact, if I hadn’t written those quotes in my journal I don’t think my daughter would have believed me! Not much happened about it in their schools…maybe because it fell on a Sunday. I think it’s one of those things that has really just become a part of our children’s lives since they don’t know any differently. Thanks for commenting!
Hi Judy~ glad to meet you! It is fascinating to me to think about how people from other countries viewed 9/11 during and after. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Hi Terri~ nice to meet you! Glad you enjoyed my post!Reply
TerriSeptember 13, 2011
I am a new follower from the Blog Hop.
What a wonderful post.Reply
Judy Haughton-JamesSeptember 13, 2011
I am a new Follower from the Wednesday Blog Hop. This is an excellent post. 9/11 certainly affected the whole world. I am a Jamaican. Some 16 Jamaicans were killed in that horrible event. My thoughts and prayers are with the relatives of the almost 3,000 persons who were killed. By the way, the pictures of your children are so lovely. Take care and my best wishes to you and your family.Reply
Judy -JUDY H-J’S THOUGHTS
DeeSeptember 13, 2011
I”m wondering if this past Sunday your children expressed any thoughts about the 10th anniversary. They were so young on “that ordinary day” that I suspect they’d have no memory of the actual day.
Your posting–which includes your belief in an ordinary day, your realizing it wasn’t, your concern about your own children, and your responsibilities to the children entrusted to your care–makes me wonder what is being taught in school classrooms about that day and what went before and what’s come after.
Since then, I wonder too about how we now define “an ordinary day.”
Your posting catapulted me into a multitude of questions. Thank you for sharing that day with us. Peace.Reply
mamawolfeSeptember 13, 2011
Hi Essential Mama Baby- I agree, that was a horrifying image. It was all so surreal.
Hi Elisabeth~ thank you.
Hi Kirsty~ An amazing thought about how the rest of the world was viewing this…I couldn’t watch the TV images myself.
Hi Brenda~ you are so right. That is what I’ve learned from that moment, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.Reply
brendaSeptember 13, 2011
Nothing has been ordinary since that day. It makes us remember how short this life is and reminds us to be present perfect and enjoy what we have.. Nice postReply
KirstySeptember 13, 2011
Very cute photos. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and turning on the tv and watching it all happen.. here in Australia.Reply
Elisabeth HirschSeptember 12, 2011
Such a beautiful tribute.Reply
Essential Mama BabySeptember 12, 2011
It is really true when they say on the news: “We will never forget it!”.
Every one has a story on that day. Life changed from that moment on. It was like watching a movie, I couldn’t believe that it was really happening, people were really dying.
I will never forget the image of people jumping out of the building in complete desperation!
Stopping by from VB Members to Remember.Reply
mamawolfeSeptember 12, 2011
Hi Michael Ann~ yes, mind boggling is a great description! Thanks for the comment!
Hi Jenni~ thanks for stopping by.
Hi Kathy~ isn’t it amazing to think that we could possibly downplay that day? What we can do when the pressure is on is astounding.
Hi Jenn~ yes, it really makes me cherish every moment I have with my children and loved ones.
Hi Holly~ I wish I could talk to my students I was with that day. I hope they have memories that comfort them.
Hi Shawna~ if only we could turn back time and make it ordinary again…
Hi Taunya~ yes, I was torn, but it taught me an important lesson I’ve carried with me ever since.
Hi Mrs. Diner~ I felt so far away physically, and couldn’t bring myself to watch all the reports. It was too much to bear.Reply
Mrs. DinerSeptember 12, 2011
I was pregnant with my first & not working at the time, so my entire day was filled with phone calls & television reports as I sat shocked & saddened by the horrible tragedy just 90 minutes from my home.Reply
Simply TaunyaSeptember 12, 2011
Beautiful post Jennifer. I could not imagine the tug on your heart when you are torn between your own children and the children that you were responsible for that day. It was such a hard day…Reply
ShawnaSeptember 12, 2011
Beautifully written and brought tears to my eyes! Ohh.. How I wish it could be just an ordinary day and that it never happened but I am sure everyone wishes that! Thanks for sharing this. From Members To Remember!Reply
Holly Mackenzie CuppSeptember 11, 2011
I was a 6th grader on September 11th. I had a feeling of un-ease and the desperate urge to call my mom and make sure she was alright. After hanging up with her in the hallway at school I came back into the classroom to hear an announcement over the intercom asking everyone to turn on their televisions. There was smoke everywhere, a second plane… Then a few minutes later the voice behind the intercom asking us all to bow our heads in a moment of silence.Reply
JennSeptember 11, 2011
So true. Everything started so normally, so ordinary… Then everything changed. It’s amazing how quickly it can happen.Reply
KathySeptember 11, 2011
Beautiful and beautifully written. I really enjoy your writing style. I love how you were trying so hard to cling to your ordinary day, I found myslef doing the same thing, trying to downplay the news. You captured the feelings so wonderfully, thank you for a great post.Reply
jenni863September 11, 2011
I loved your story!! I agree with Michael Ann very beautifully written! Im stopping by form the Grow your GFC ready a follower, so I followed networked blogs.I would love to invite you to follow me, J’S REVIEWS AND GIVEAWAYSReply
Thanks so much! have a great day!
Michael AnnSeptember 11, 2011
Thank you for sharing this, Jennifer. It reflects so well that mind boggling phenomenon — how quickly things can change from one moment to the next. How any ordinary day can become extraordinary. This was beautifully written.Reply