In The News
Ten Years Later
My husband and I were married on August 18th, 2001, in a stone church in my tiny hometown in Pennsylvania. Apart from the mid-day heat, the day was perfect, beautiful, peaceful. We enjoyed a week together in St. Lucia then returned to our apartment on the DC/MD line. My new husband returned to his job with the federal government in downtown DC, and I began my new teaching job at a public middle school in the county that borders Washington, DC to the north.
September 11, 2001, began like any other day in the two weeks I had been teaching English to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Then out of the corner of my eye while I stood at the white board in front of my 6th grade class, I saw a teacher running down the hall. Moments later another one went by, and this time I managed to step out and find out what was happening.
"Government buildings are under attack downtown. The Pentagon has been hit." That was the first information that I received, what I knew before hearing about the World Trade Center buildings or the hijacked planes. I stepped back into the classroom, not sure if my husband was safe.
I resumed what I was teaching, but was interrupted by the principal of the school who announced as gently as he could that there had been terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, with known attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. My eyes locked with a little girl in the first row, tears rolling down her face as she mouthed the words, "My dad works there." I somehow remembered that her older sister was in the school in 8th grade, so I took her hand and found one of the teachers speeding past the classroom. Together they found her big sister and went to the office to wait for news in privacy along with other kids with family at the Pentagon.
The day's lesson was impossible to continue as 11 and 12 year old's questions came at me one after the other. What is a terrorist? We grabbed the dictionary and worked that one out together on the board. Where do they come from? Everywhere. Over there. Right here. This time? I had no idea...
I was grateful for my free period so I could sit in a quiet classroom watching the news with the other 6th grade teachers also on their planning period. We watched as the second tower fell. We took turns desperately trying to call our spouses in DC. Is this what being married felt like? Like half of you was somewhere else, and you just wanted desperately to be together and be whole again?
A class period or two later they sent us all home for the day, and even though I managed to make it to my apartment through the chaos of the metro area traffic, I knew it would be hours before I would see my husband, evacuated along with the other federal employees. I can still feel the relief when he walked into our apartment that night. It is a feeling that, like the events of that day, I will never forget...