It has been twelve years, but the memories of that day are still fresh in my mind. We had been in school for about week. Mid-way through the second period of the day, our principal Ann Monday came over the PA system to say that an airplane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. We had been atop one of the Towers just three weeks earlier, and I remember looking down and seeing a Cessna flying along the Hudson below us. I figured it was a light aircraft, and that couldn’t do much damage. My students were working on an assignment, and I looked quickly at my computer for a news feed. What I saw were the shocking images we are all too familiar with from that day.
The students finished their assignment, and were curious to see what was happening. We had a news feed on the classroom television, so I turned that on, telling them that they probably didn’t want to see it. They didn’t react much, but left in silence. Then, chaos ensued as students gathered, hugging and crying, especially as news leaked out of the attack on the Pentagon where some of their parents worked. I remember especially one of my students who had come from Afghanistan holding another student whose father worked at the Pentagon.
Parents began arriving in droves to pick up their students because the phone lines were tied up. Classes were clearly done for the day, so I helped parents find classrooms. The buses came early, and soon the school was deserted. The teachers went to their cars and left.
I drove home listening to the news on the radio, thinking that the brother of one of our daughter Amy’s college friends worked on the 101st floor of one of the towers. Matthew Horning did not survive. We remember him every year with a donation to Heifer, International, which provides families around the world with livestock to allow them to improve their lives.
Everything was canceled that dark day, and our daughters joined us for dinner. There was no school the next day, and with all flights cancelled, an odd silence in the skies as no giant airliners came above our house on their way to land at Dulles Airport.
And so we remember…sacrifice and courage, and the day that “the world stopped turning.” May we never forget.