It was only my second week of teaching -ever. College doesn't prepare you for terrorist attacks. It doesn't prepare you for nearly enough of what you need to know in life, but even if they had specific courses or even lessons designated on how to approach your classroom during the long aftermath of deadly attacks on home soil, it wouldn't help. It's not something you can train for...well, you can, but we train to be teachers, not grief counselors. But for you educators out there, be honest, did you learn more about teaching from college courses or did it take being in your classroom day-in and day-out? It's simply something before 9/11 that we never thought about. Never considered.
But, now we do. And I do hope that colleges do talk about it to some extent and of course I pray that our country (no country) has to ever go through the devastation, anger, fear and loss that terrorist attacks (especially to that magnitude) bring with it. Whatever is being talked about isn't enough. My point being, unless you have counseling or a psychology background, it's a very difficult situation and conversation to have with your classroom. I'm willing to bet that even then, it's not so easy. Again, my point is that nothing teaches you more than the reality of the situation.
The reality of my situation was that I was already lost in the muddle of learning the ropes as an educator. Proof being that after the attacks, my principal came over the intercom asking teachers to "please check your clocks." A few moments passed and my principal came to the doorway of my room. "Mr. Graybill, did you check your clock?" To which I responded, "Yes, my clock is correct." Somewhere along the way I missed the "memo" that "Teachers, please check your clocks" meant, check your email because there is an emergency announcement. I checked my email and read the message and I believe my reaction was quite similar to others not right in the middle of the disaster. Jaw drops. Body becomes chilled. Your mind struggles to put a visual to what happened.
Then the TV.
At that time there was a TV in a nearby room - and I got my visual. And the visuals wouldn't stop. I ached at the thought of people rushing to anywhere, but their deaths. I cringed at the crying, the fear. I still cringe.
The following day, my students didn't have many questions. I'm sure dinner conversations the previous night were quite different. I remember one of the counselors coming in and helping me approach the situation with my class. I, myself, had no idea what to say or where to start.
Along with the fallen, heroes rose. I honor the former (and actually think of them often although I never met them) and I am forever-thankful for those that sacrificed themselves to save others.
I guess it's a sign of how habitual the human body is. There are certain times, and sometimes it seems like it's every day, that I look at the clock at the exact same time. I quite often look at the clock and see that it is 11:13 - my birthday. I also tend to look at 5:48 - the number of home runs Mike Schmidt hit in his career. But also look at another time quite often...not as much now as several years ago, but I do the same thing every time.
I decided back in 2011 that every time I looked at the clock and saw that it read 9:11 that I would say a prayer for those that lost their lives, were injured physically, mentally...and spiritually. I pray for their families that undoubtedly still miss them and most certainly shed fresh tears. I pray for protection over this country and I express gratitude for people's ability to be heroes in a time of tragedy.
I invite you to do the same. When you look at the clock and you see a 9 followed by two digital twin towers, pray and give thanks for important things you have.
We will never forget.