This morning I woke up to a wonderful surprise in my Facebook account – a sweet message from a former student! (If the words are too small to read, click here for a larger view.)
I held my phone in my hands as tears crept to the corners of my eyes. I sat that way for quite a few minutes… unable to move… unable to respond… simple remembrances of that fateful day flooding my memory.
Today is 9-11. It’s been 13 years since I sat in that classroom, still reeling from the shock of what I just witnessed, live, on the TV set during my planning period when the students were at their resource class. The phrase “terrorism” wasn’t even a part of my vocabulary at the time; my greatest concern in the safety of my students was keeping them from getting stung by the multitude of mud daubers who would build their homes in the corners of the ceiling tiles in my portable classroom.
I remember the confusion. The disbelief. The shock and horror of such unimaginable hatred, pinpointed against the very country I loved. I thought about my friend, Truly, working in New York just blocks away from the chaos. I thought of my friends working in and around Washington D.C. I thought of my family, 12 hours away in Virginia and wished for just a moment I didn’t live so far away.
And then I thought of my students. Their smiling faces, returning to class, unaffected by the turn of events that would forever mark their childhood and teenage years. How would I explain this to them? We had just started the school year a few weeks before, still getting to know each other. They were seven and eight years old. How could I possibly deal with my own questions and confusion and simultaneously answer theirs?
Somehow we all made it through the day. I can’t remember if I talked with them that afternoon or the next morning, but I remember clearly the conversation. I sat in my rocking chair with twenty-five sweet, innocent faces staring back at me as we discussed what had happened to our country. They asked questions that I tried to answer with gentle honesty, reminding them that they would always be safe with me. They were my babies and I would always protect them; they were indeed safe to learn and grow without fear. We hugged one another and I continued to reassure them throughout that day, week, and months ahead that all was good and well.
Thirteen years have passed and I am still in the business of reassuring children that all is good and well with this world. Yes, it may seem like a paradox, especially if you pay close attention to the news reports on any given day, but I believe there is good in this world. It is my job to remind kids that they are safe. That they are loved. That they can overcome any hardship this world dishes out. I am called to empower these wonderful little people to know that they can do and be anything they set their minds to and they are not just products of a system that may or may not fail them throughout life.
I am a teacher.
I’m here today to tell you that right now, on this most sacred days of remembrances, I am humbled beyond words to know that I have made a difference in a child’s life. The lessons this sweet gal took away from 9-11 was that she was safe and she was loved. Today, she took time out of her busy life to share her reflections and how much I meant to her.
And the tears appear again. 🙂
This afternoon I decided to put a little more good in the world, remembering those who lost their lives in such a tragic way, but also remembering the children whose lives were forever changed by such madness. I wish that we could return to a simpler time, when life was easy and free and fun. In that spirit of hope, I made my way to our local playground with a special RAK to perform.
I brought along thirteen quarters, one for each year since 9-11. If you look closely at the quarter, right there on the front, you can read visions of freedom from our founding fathers emblazoned in metallic words: Liberty. In God We Trust. United States of America.
All synonymous with hope. 🙂
I entered the playground and scattered my coins, knowing they would be discovered with squeals of delight from children of all ages.
It was a small gesture, sure… and one that will go unnoticed by many… but it made my heart happy to picture the smiling faces of children playing, with no greater worries than how fast they could slip down a slide. For thirteen children, today will be a day of joy and celebration. 🙂
Thank you, Megan, for blessing my day with love, kindness, and memories. I will never forget you, your class, or any of the students I have claimed as my own over the past seventeen years. You are mine and I am yours.
I am proud to say I was your teacher on such an important day in our country’s history. Let’s continue finding ways to bring happiness in all we say and do. 🙂