Tuesday, September 11, 2012
9/11 eleven years later
Eleven years ago, I stood in my living room and cringed at the sight of the first plane hitting the tower. I thought, what an horrific accident. I felt terrible for the people on that plane, and for those in the World Trade Center building. I did not realize that the horror had only just begun.
I headed to school and turned on my car radio. Ilistened intently to the reports. Then, I heard that another plane had crashed.
No one was sure what was going on. Teachers were asking one another, "Did you
hear about the plane crashes in NY?" The gravity of the situation -America was under
attack- was like a collective punch in the gut. We all felt winded, worried, and wounded.
My preschool classroom was in the lower level of an inner city middle school. What I remember most is the panicked African American youth in the hall who shouted at me, "America is at
"Calm down," I said. "Don't jump to conclusions. Nobody knows for sure what's going on. This does not mean WAR."
He insisted he saw it on TV and that military jets were intercepting planes.
I walked into my classroom, made phone calls to my family and then stood in stunned silence as my preschool students went about their school day, unaffected by the attacks. I knew my students were okay. My aide was capable, so I left her in charge. I felt as though I HAD to do
something patriotic to relieve the mounting tension in the middle schoolstudents, although I was not in charge of any of them. I came up with an idea. I did not consult the principal or counselor. I cut 12 inch red, white and blue construction paper strips, like kids use to make paper chains at Christmas. I visited each classroom. I passed out a strip to each student and asked them to write what they were feeling at the moment about the tragedy; any fears, any words, anything would be acceptable. Some asked if they should sign it.
"If you want to," I said.
I collected the strips and rolled them into loops, then I stapled them to the bulletin
board in the cafeteria. I assembled more than two hundred of them into an American flag. I stood back and admired that "feeling flag". I read, "I am afraid." "I want to kick their asses." "Bomb them." "Why did this happen?" "What now?" "I want to go home."
I felt the same way. At lunch I observed students looking for their piece of that flag. I listened to them read their words aloud, giving voice to fears and feelings, owning their emotions.
I don't know if my action did any good. It just felt good to do SOMETHING.
I mentioned to my husband a couple of years after 9/11 that I felt as if the color had drained from America. I first noticed it on highways and parking lots. Most new cars were gray, beige or white. Emotions ran the gamut, people were depressed; everyone seemed blah and everything
seemed bland. Now, eleven years later, I notice that there are so many red cars and trucks on the road. Color is returning to America. People are blue from being homeless, hungry, jobless and hopeless. The "haves" have more green, while the "have-nots" shrivel, their egos bruised, deep,
purple. There is an underlying current that runs through the population as orange as a flame; fire rages in the gut of all who are suffering during this recession. We're desperately missing the color yellow, sunshine yellow, happy face yellow.
My plea to politicians at every level of government is do SOMETHING, reach across the aisle, the great divide and extend a hand. Come to some agreement and shake on it.
"I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony..." Remember that commercial where people of all colors, creeds, religions and ethnicities joined hands?
My heart aches for the victims, their families and all of us.