It was a typical Tuesday morning for me. I was a fifth grade teacher at a small Christian school in Delaware. The students had arrived at school, unpacked their things and they began to quietly work on their morning tasks. I scurried about the classroom, checked homework, collected notes from parents and encouraged the students to finish their work. By 9:00 a.m. we were on to our first subject of the day – Language Arts.
Meanwhile our country was being attacked. At 8:45 a.m. a hijacked passenger jet, American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston, MA crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center, tearing a gaping hole in the building and setting a fire. The students and I had no idea this had taken place… in our little school world, everything was going according to our “school bell” schedule. We did not have access to media coverage of the event. The first sign of panic for us was the sudden pick-up of our students. Parents, left and right , began to just enter the school building and demand their children.
This continued all morning. I knew something was wrong when I saw the terror in the eyes of the parents as they clung to their children. Then at 9:43 a.m. American Airlines Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon, sending up a huge plume of smoke. Evacuation begins immediately. United Airlines Flight 93, also hijacked, crashes in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh at 10:10 a.m.
As the school cleared out I headed home. I began to wonder if being in DE, half way between DC and NYC, I should be fearful. Your mind tends to wander and you naturally include yourself in the panic. By the time I made it home from work the news coverage was all I could watch. Everyone in my family was accounted for and safe. The only person that was remotely connected to the tragic events of the day was my niece in college in lower Manhattan. She said as she walked through the streets, even as far away as she was, she was engulfed in a cloud of ash and it was completely terrifying.
Then at 5:20 p.m. the 47-story Building 7 of the World Trade Center complex collapses. The evacuated building is damaged when the twin towers across the street collapse earlier in the day. Other nearby buildings in the area remain ablaze. I watched in disbelief thinking that our country was “unattackable”. No one could get into our borders and compromise the safety of our country, not America? I watched the sadness, terror, and destruction and I was speechless. I remember being captivated by the coverage – I hurt with the families whose lives will never again be the same. I watched as our President bravely spoke out against the terrorists, the gutless, cowards.
I remember the unity our country felt. I hadn’t seen that many American flags and yellow ribbons in all my life. Everywhere you turned people were nicer. Whatever they were fighting about the days before 9/11 didn’t matter. This red, white, and blue pride went on for months and I was so proud to be an American. My mother and I even went and stood in line at the local blood bank for hours just to do the little part we thought we could do to help.
After some time though the magnetic flags came off the cars, you stopped hearing Lee Greenwood sing “I’m proud to be an American”, yellow ribbons stopped being sold at the check out counters, and people forgot to put their flags back out on their front lawn. I hate that we are so quick to forget and move forward and never experience true change. That unity was fleeting and now our country couldn’t appear to be more divided.
Hopefully today people will take a few minutes to be thankful for the people they have in their life and the comforts they enjoy on a daily basis. I want to leave you with the song Michael W. Smith wrote in response to this national – There She Stands – Please watch this!
When the night seems to say
All hope is lost gone away
But I know I’m not alone
By the light she stands
There she waves faithful friend
Shimmering stars westward wind
Show the way carry me
To the place she stands
Just when you think it might be over
Just when you think the fight is gone
Someone will risk his life to raise her
There she stands
There she flies clear blue skies
Reminds us with red of those that died
Washed in white by the brave
In their strength she stands
When evil calls itself a martyr
When all your hopes come crashing down
Someone will pull her from the rubble
There she stands
We’ve seen her flying torn and tattered
We’ve seen her stand the test of time
And through it all the fools have fallen
There she stands