Today marks the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that destroyed New York’s World Trade Center. This cataclysmic event will forever be cited as an important historic event that marked the ending of one era and the beginning of a new, more uncertain period for our country and its place in the world.
Today, with so much divisiveness in our society, one thing we collectively share as a nation is the remembrance of the horrific events of that day. They will remain indelibly etched in our memory forever. Most of us can recall exactly where we were and what we were doing when we learned the news.
Like it was yesterday, I vividly recall the moment when my administrative secretary interrupted a meeting I was having with a Board of Education member. She came into the room in a panic, breathlessly saying, “Quick, turn on the television. Something horrible has happened.”
We watched, mouths agape, as the second plane flew into the South Tower, confirming our worst fears that this was no random accident, but a carefully planned terrorism attack.
Then, as if on cue in a movie in slow motion, the phones began to ring as if in chorus. My daughter, Laura was my first caller. “Mother, do you know what just happened? Turn on your television.”
“It’s on, Laura,” I replied. “Where are you? Are you okay?”
“Yes. Just wanted to check in. I’ve got to go. Stay in touch.”
I assured her that I was fine and said goodbye, “Thanks for calling. We’ll talk later.”
I immediately turned to my board president, and then realized that most of the district staff had joined us in the office to watch the unfolding tragedy. A secretary left the room and returned with two boxes of Kleenex; we sat for what seemed an eternity fixated to the screen, many overwrought with emotion and several of us fighting back tears.
Every phone in the administrative offices was now ringing non-stop in a cacophony of chaos. Parents were calling frantically from work wanting reassurance about the safety of their child and seeking advice about what to do. We reassured them that the children would be kept safe in school for the rest of the day.
Reports began coming in that several neighboring schools were sending children home, and many of our teachers began reporting that their own children had been excused from school. They began frantically calling to secure arrangements for the safety of their own children.
My board president left to call his wife and I began the process of drafting a letter to our parents. It was a day that even now is difficult to describe; one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I’ll write more about that horrific day in my upcoming regular blog this week.
As America collectively reflects today on the events of that fateful day, I encourage each of you to write down your own memories about what you were doing that morning, and how what happened all those years ago, has shaped your own life and worldview.
Listen to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A” here.