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Wednesday, September 10

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning (Alan Jackson)


It's September 11th, and I would be remiss if I didn't address that.  Heaven knows, the media will probably beat it to death.  But we SHOULD remember. 

So.............where were you?  What were you doing?    

I was on my first day of internship as a school counselor.  It was trial by fire, literally, that day.  I had just arrived for my first day, and planned to be the bubbly little lady that bounced from room to room teaching elementary school kids why we should share and be nice.  No dice.
My supervisor spent a few minutes mapping out the day, and she turned on the radio to listen to while we printed out some materials.  We were the first in the school to hear.  While I went online to check the verity of the story (bear in mind, we had dial-up), she ran down to the library to turn on one of the TVs.  Then the librarians knew.

We informed the main office, who told us we needed to go from room to room and let the teachers know what was going on "without alerting the children."  Oh puh-lease.  Children are ALWAYS going to know that something's up.  Especially when you don't want them to.  And even more so if the teacher starts crying in the doorway.  Not an easy morning.
The school then went on lock-down.  Within an hour, they had had so many parents trying to pick up kids early that they literally locked-down the school and wouldn't let anyone leave or come in.  Parents began to panic, and we had people trying to sneak in the back doors.

By the way, I should mention that I was at an elementary school on the east coast.  It is my understanding, from folks I've spoken with in our new home of Oklahoma, that 9/11 affected east coasters considerably more than the rest of the country...at least, on the actual day of events.  Maybe that's not the case at all, but that's how it's been portrayed to me.

Also, my parents lived just outside Boston and often travelled those early flights.  A few of the passengers, including one of the pilots, lived in our neighborhood.  I had several friends that lived and worked in NYC, including a couple in the World Trade Centers. 
The stories that came out of that day represent the best and worst of human nature.  They are the epitome of tragedy and, occasionally, tragic comedy.  The absolute worst are those of the phone calls made to loved ones from people who knew they wouldn't make it out alive.  I have a friend that received one from his parents...it's a story that you can't fathom, but can't forget.

Just a month later, I had a wonderful experience in Boston, witnessing the unification of a city.  For a time, America emerged from 9/11 as a stronger nation.  We became a caring nation.  We put people above business.  We looked into one another's eyes and saw a shared pain, and a shared strength.  I think that time has passed, and we have already forgotten, too soon. 
Our memories of 9/11 are similar to our grandparents' snapshots of Pearl Harbor.  You remember what you were wearing, what you heard and saw, and how you felt.  The horror, fear, and pain.  The unknowing.  I asked my grandparents, all four of them, separately, about their experience on Pearl Harbor day.  Three of them were unwilling to talk about it, saying that it was best left in the past.  I know that they fought in the war and served their country.  Only one was willing to talk, and she was quite young that day...only ten or eleven.  Also, she did not live in America at the time. 

I say all of that to say this - the "greatest generation" had their own problems, to be sure.  But they were a generation of do-ers.  They acted on problems.  Our generation seems to think that we can talk a problem to death...but no one wants to act on it.  Perhaps we should take this lesson from the past - actions DO speak louder than wordsWe, as a nation, need to remember what happened, and continue to act on it. 

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