September 11th Memories

As I drove in my car on Saturday, September 10, 2016 I heard Scott Simon, the NPR Weekend Edition host, interview a women who was flying 15 years ago and a day. She took off from Frankfurt, Germany and expected to land in Atlanta, Georgia. But instead, Scott reports:

Shirley Brooks-Jones is one of an estimated 8,000 air passengers who would find themselves essentially stranded in Gander [Newfoundland], a town of 10,000, for the next three days.

I was amazed by the rest of this story.
Click HERE to read or listen to his report.

Due to the attacks on the morning of September 11, 2001 in New York, the FAA ordered airplanes to land as a precaution. Listening to Scott and Shirley talk, I understood for the first time what this actually meant to those passengers on board other flights that day. Scott ends the interview with this exchange:

SIMON: So much of the worst of humanity was seen on that day.


SIMON: What do you think you’ve seen?

BROOKS-JONES: I witnessed the best of humanity, I kid you not. Those people – they didn’t have to do it, but they cared for us. You know, it was just – I experienced the best. I really truly did. And I’ve always felt that most people are good. They just simply reinforced that with me, that no matter how little or how much you have, there’s goodness in people and the Newfoundlanders have it. They have got it like you would not believe.

That line – “I’ve always felt that most people are good” lingers with me as I wipe my eyes. The goodness of others is what I still look for, then and 15 years later.

Of course, I naturally began to recall my own 9/11 memories…
…I was teaching 4th grade and all day long, students were called to the office to leave early. So many of our students had parents that worked in important government jobs. Of course, they worried and just wanted to control having their family safely together.

…feeling the same way, I called my mom to ask her to come over to our house to be there when Anne, also in 4th grade but at our neighborhood school, got home from school and Bridgit, a 7th grader got home from Middle School. By 4pm, I would be home, too. I recall suggesting to not watch TV as I wasn’t sure what was being reported and it all sounded scary.

…Teachers were asked to remain inside all day, no outside recess. Our school’s close proximity to the CIA worried the administration and they thought it best to just stay inside. When I announced Indoor Recess, I remember thinking how no student questioned why, despite the perfect weather outside. They enjoyed exploring and playing with my class collection of board games.

…The sky. That blue, clear sky. So blue. So still. So quiet. I remember thinking how it was almost a sign from above that all is OK. One act can’t destroy this beautiful world as symbolized by the perfect, blue sky.

…School was canceled the following day. The DC-Metropolitan area needed a day to figure out just what happened. As I drove home from work, I listened to the news for the first time all day. The announcer was listing all the things that were closed. “All airports are close. All airspaces above the United States and Canada are closed.  The St. Lawrence Seaway was closed. The Erie Canal was closed.” Hearing this list gave me chills. Our country was on lock down. No one was leaving and no one was getting in. a very eerie feeling.

As the hours passed and I learned the towers came down, I felt so sad. Sad for the people who lost their lives. But also sad for losing these two towers.Being married to an architect, I have an added appreciation for the built environment. I’d visited New York with my family just a few years before and went to the top of the World Trade Center.  I felt sad that these building were gone, all gone.



On September 10, 2016 I spent the evening watching 15 Septembers, a documentary on The History Chanel with my daughter, Anne. Being only 9 back then, she now had lots of wonderings. She also is leaving in 7 days to fly on a big jet to work in France until May. She will be in Marseille, in the south of France, not too far from where there was a terrorist attack this summer in Nice. I do worry for her safety. I do worry that she is far away from home.

But then, as I awoke on September 11, 2016, I see she has posted to her blog and I read it. Being reminded of what happened 15 years ago moves her to action. Her blog tells her readers the step-by-step instructs involved to vote while abroad. She optimistically states:

It’s reminded me that every single person’s contribution to their country matters.
Small actions have the potential to create waves.

I plan to teach 3rd graders on September 12, 2016 and read aloud Seven and a Half Tons of Steel to my class. It is a book I learned about from a blog post by TwoWritingTeachers. Maybe my pausing to share this story about how a piece of steel from that occurrence 15 years ago can instill a little of Anne’s optimism in my students.

I am grateful for the kindness shown in Gander, Newfoundland.
I am grateful for the bravery of our 1st responders and the resilience of New Yorkers.
I am grateful for the architects that rebuilt New York City.
I am grateful that my now 24 year old is boldly living her life.
I am grateful I get to teach 8 year olds that “most people are good” and that even their “small actions have the potential to create waves”.
I am grateful I had the weekend to process this event that happened 15 years ago, maybe fully for the first time.


New York Financial Center at dusk


Follow-up: Reading aloud Seven and a Half Tons by Janet Nolan was the perfect read-aloud for my 3rd graders. It allowed for an age-appropriate discussion of this important time in US History. So glad she wrote it and that Stacey at TwoWritingTeachers blogged about it. I am grateful I am part of a writing community.