Tonight we got word from President Obama that Osama Bin Laden was killed by American forces. I never feel good about anyone dying, but I find the exception with this announcement. I actually feel relief and a sense of justice in this news. Since this happened 10 years ago there are many people out there who may have not been directly affected by this horrific event.
I taught in a suburb of NYC in September of 2001. Like many Long Island schools, the community included many NYC firefighters and NYC policemen and police women. In addition many of our parents worked in NYC and in the Twin Towers specifically. The twin Towers was a great part of the lives of many New Yorkers. I personally celebrated several special occasions at the Windows on the World Restaurant at the top of the Towers.
September 11, 2001 began as any other day in school. The energy was very high with teachers and students, since the school year had just begun. There was no social media, so news was delivered by broadcast media including television and radio. Twitter and Facebook did not exist. If they did they would probably have been blocked. There were no smartphones.
As teachers, we got the word from our main office during the first period. Someone in the main office had a radio on listening to the news. Many of us went to the library where we knew there was a feed for TV. That was where we observed the first Tower in flames. As bad as that was, the second Tower being hit confirmed that it was not an airline accident, but a terror attack. We ran a TV feed to the auditorium, so other teachers could be informed. The faculty soon became aware of what was going on. The decision was made to protect the students, numbering close to 1,000, from the event, since many of their parents were Police, Firefighters, or workers in offices in the Towers.
It was very difficult for middle school teachers to withhold such information from their students, but it was agreed to be the best decision. Teachers ran to the TV sets between classes to get the latest updates. There was a great deal of crying and hugging, out of the sight of students, between teachers united in the face of disaster. Our instinct was to tell our students and help them through the tragedy, but we knew that we needed to have more personal information before that could happen. As a teacher, that was the worst day of my career. I am tearing as I commit these words to this post. Before noon parents and relatives began to arrive to sign kids out of school. Shortly after, many kids were signed out and went home, teachers had to offer an explanation. We then had an early dismissal.
We were more fortunate than other districts. We lost a few parents in the Towers. Other districts were devastated. Every day for about a month, pictures appeared in the local papers of victims of the event. Literally hundreds of victims’ pictures were released each and every day. Personal accounts of first hand experiences stoked the flames of retribution. People were scared and filled with a need to strike out. This was fueled with every funeral. The funerals went on for weeks, and months after the event.The most elaborate were the heroes, the firefighters and police. Pictures of victims every day, day after day appeared in local papers. In Schools Pupil personnel, counselors, psychologists, and social workers all worked to deal with student issues resulting from the event.
There are very few people in the NYC or the NYC suburban area who escaped the effects of the event. Ground Zero is more than a place on a property in NYC. Ground Zero is in the hearts of New Yorkers. It has scored a place in my heart as an educator. The pain from that day will never leave me. As I recount that day, I am now overwhelmed with emotion. As I read peoples’ opinions about how we should not rejoice in the death of an individual, I can agree. That is however with one big exception, the death of Osama Bin Laden. I am very glad that bastard is dead.