At 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, I turned on the TV. I was nearly late to work, unable to tear myself away from the shocking news on the screen. When I arrived at the elementary school at 7, I was told to head directly to the teacher’s lounge for an emergency staff meeting. Surrounded by my colleagues, I felt no comfort. No one did. Our faces spoke volumes. We were in shock, saddened and uncertain how to proceed with our students.
Our instructions depended on the grade level. I taught kindergarten that year. My students were 4 or 5 years old. Most of my children were just beginning to learn English as their second language. In my case, I could not say anything. I had to go on teaching as if the course of history had not drastically changed forever.
Two decades have passed since that morning. My students were not born yet. A full generation inherited the aftermath without any memory of what happened. Much like my parents tried to describe what they felt upon hearing that President Kennedy had been shot, I find it impossible to recreate what I experienced on 9/11 to children that were not here to live through it.
It is my dream to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum one day. It would be particularly meaningful to be there in person this year. The pandemic has overshadowed all other major life events. I still remember the world’s response the day after, Sept. 12, 2001. All of the teachers met before the first school bus arrived filled with our students. We held hands in a circle of solidarity on the main playground, chanting, “We Shall Never Forget.”
Let us all never forget.
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