I was teaching middle school that day. I had a class of seventh grade students at the time. Our secretary came to the door and called me over and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. At first I thought–we all thought–that it had been a plane crash, not an attack. But then came the news of the second tower and the Pentagon and the ones who lost their lives in a Pennsylvania field rather than to let their plane be flown into the White House (that was its supposed target).
Having to tell those children that someone had attacked our country was a terrible moment. Children at that age still have some of their childhood innocence and it became my job to steal some of that from them and then to calm their fears, to assure them that they and their families were safe. We were lucky, looking back, because our small New Hampshire town was insulated enough that none of those children lost a loved one that day.
Because my eighth grade students were studying US History, they were allowed to watch the news footage from that day. None of the other classes were allowed to watch, as they were too young, and we wanted to shield them from such evil. I think seeing it on television made it real for my students. I had them sit at their desks and told them that someday, not too far in the future, events like this would be in the history books that other students would read, and that we were going to watch some of the coverage so that they could see history unfolding, and so they would remember.
Meanwhile, I was able to check my email and found out that a close friend’s wife had flown out of Boston that morning, just like the plane that hit the first tower. He was trying to find out amid the confusion if her plane was one of the ones in the attack. It wasn’t, but the waiting for that word was a long and difficult time for me and much moreso for my friend.
Those seventh-grade students graduated from college this year. I hope that they remember that day always, not because the terrorists attacked their country, but because they have the opportunity to bring about change so that their children never have to be gathered by their teachers and told that their country is under attack.
On a lighter note, after that week’s race in New Hampshire was postponed to late November (when it tends to get mighty cold in those parts), I made the offhanded comment to a friend on Kenny Wallace’s fan forum that I would like to see Mike Helton on the track with a snow shovel if the weather didn’t cooperate. My friend was the obliging type and Photoshopped the NASCAR president’s head onto a photo of somebody shoveling snow and posted it on the forum. The only problem was, there were proportion issues and the end result made Mr. Helton resemble Dorf. He was not amused and the incident ended with both Kenny and his Webmaster (who had enough of a sense of humor about it to be my good friends to this day) being called into the NASCAR hauler to discuss why this was wrong. My friend and I may hold the distinction of being the only fans ever to get a driver called into the hauler. Oops.
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