September 11th, 2007


On September 11, 2001, I was working as a substitute teacher in the local public school system while finishing my dissertation for my PhD. That morning, I was teaching half the day in a 4th grade classroom and then meeting with my PhD advisor in the afternoon to discuss a few final draft edits to my dissertation manuscript. I never made it to that afternoon meeting.

At about 10:00 am, the principal of the school I was teaching in came into the classroom and asked to speak to me out in the hall. Being pretty new to the substitute teacher thing, I thought I had inadvertently messed up some paperwork or something. Instead it was far worse, but I didn’t know it yet. The principal said that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers and that they were not discussing it with the kids yet so if I heard anything just keep it to myself for now. I said okay and my brain immediately assumed it was accidental, and a small plane of some sort. At noon the regular teacher came to take over the class and I left to go to my meeting. I turned on the radio, and within minutes I had pulled my car over and was frantically calling my finance (now spouse) on my cell phone. “Two PASSENGER planes hit the World Trade Center? And the Pentagon?  On PURPOSE? The towers FELL? PASSENGER planes? From AIRLINES?” I just kept repeating it. Passenger planes? Towers collapsed?  Pentagon hit?  It was like my brain couldn’t absorb the words. Passenger planes? I think my brain still can’t just a little bit.

I eventually drove home and like much of the US if not the world was glued to my television for days and spent hours on the phone with loved ones and friends finding out if anyone I personally knew was one of the lost. I am one of the lucky ones, no one I knew personally died that day. Although six years later I still feel like pulling over the car and sobbing every time Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” comes on the radio. Teaching a class full of innocent children, whose lives changed that day just as much as mine did. I know that awful, terrible things happen in the world every single day, and that the US has been extremely lucky in many ways that this was the first terrorist attack of this magnitude on our own soil. It still feels unreal in many ways to me, like I can’t quite wrap my brain around it.

I look at my two children, and it makes me both relieved and incredulous that the words “September Eleventh” will not carry the same pain and anguish and shock and sadness in their hearts. They will know what happened, they will learn about it, but nothing can exactly replicate being in that moment in your heart. My parents used to tell me about the Vietnam War and how it felt to be alive then and I know I never truly understood it the way they did. As my daughter sleeps soundly next to me as I type this, I am thankful that such pain is not part of her personal past. Although I have no ability to control this, I can hope that there will not be a day in her future which she could describe as the day the world stopped turning for her.

I’ll be back to the regular posting schedule and the personal finance topics tomorrow. For today, I am spending time with my family and letting the remembering quietly sift over me.

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8 Responses to “Remembrance”

  1. Thanks so much for this post. I’m a regular reader trying to get out of debt and I had just posted my own thoughts on the 9/11 tragedy just before checking out your blog. It’s a pretty significant date for me as it’s/it was also my birthday. Needless to say, birthdays aren’t all that joyful for me anymore. Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for your comment. And happy birthday to you.

  3. That reminded me of something that really touched me after 9/11. My mom’s students (she’s an elementary school teacher) got really upset because my mom started crying when the phones went down. My brother and I (her only children) both lived in downtown New York, and she lost contact with us and obviously feared the worst. Her students got together and the next day brought in all of their favorite beanie babies. One brought toothpaste and a couple of toothbrushes. They told her that they wanted her to take their favorite toys and give them to her sons so they wouldn’t be scared. She, obviously, broke down.

    They wrote me a letter (I had been to visit before and so they knew me). I still have it, and the beanie babies. I went to visit my parents a month later and went with my mom to visit her kids. I asked if they wanted their beanie babies back, because I was OK, and they told me to give them to any kids in New York who were still scared.

    That still makes my eyes water to think about it, even today. And I’m glad my son won’t feel as bad about 9/11 as I do, just like I don’t feel as bad about December 7th as my grandparents did. I hope the only dates he ever has to remember are birthdays and holidays.

  4. Wow. Thanks for sharing those beautiful thoughts. I’ve always remembered the day the Challenger exploded, and the day Desert Storm started as those heart-wrenching world-stopping days, and truly believed, until September 11, 2001, that that was as bad as it could get. I wish we were all still that naive.

  5. What a touching story Brip Blap. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. Thank you Kelly for sharing. I remember those things too and I understand exactly what you are saying.


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