This post is going to be in the mode of stream of consciousness. I have so much swirling around in my head, the music is too loud, and I am bone weary at this particular moment. So really all I can do is let my thoughts come out in one long stream. Sound good?
Sixteen years ago I was a second year teacher on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I was teaching third grade and had an assistant teacher. We were conducting reading groups, which we tracked since altogether there were six third grade teachers and assistant teachers. In the middle of the period the head of school walked in and motioned me to come to her at the door. She whispered in my ear that two planes had struck the Twin Towers. There wasn't much information at that time other than that. I was shocked, dumbstruck, and couldn't really figure out what to do next. Our instructions were clear, keep the kids calm, uninformed, and on their normal schedule. All the teachers wanted to do was to watch the TV that was in my room. When the students had a period out of our classroom that is exactly what we did.
The news never got any better. In fact it kept getting more and more horrific, like out of a movie that couldn't possibly be based in reality. I was able to reach my mother, who was in Connecticut, on my cell phone, but getting through to my sister, down in DC, was impossible. So one of us would call my mother and she would relay information back and forth to the two of us.
One of my students had parents who were both journalists. They were both covering the World Trade Center. Many students got picked up early by parents, or care givers. We were to keep as much normalcy in the classroom as possible and think up reasons why so and so was leaving early. It was a surreal day with sirens racing all day down, down, down to the hell that was the Financial District.
I walked uptown to my friend on 93rd Street and spent the evening with her since no trains were running and cabs were impossible to find. We sat, glued, in front of the television. What else was there to do? We prayed, for sure, but it is hard to pray when you can't even wrap your head around what is happening. It is hard to pray when you are unsure as to what the future will hold for your city, your nation.
Eventually I began to walk uptown to my apartment on 187th Street. I believe at one point I was able to get a cab. I was very thankful for that kindness. Once I got home I turned on my computer and went to Craigslist where covering every board were wanted ads, looking for missing people. The majority of them were titled: Cantor Fitzgerald. At first I thought, wow, so many people looking for this one cantor. Only later did I realize that the whole floor of Cantor Fitzgerald had been obliterated. All employees were gone. Loved ones so tightly holding on to hope that their Cantor Fitzgerald family member was spared, was out there, was trying to get in touch. It was heartbreaking to realize, as the hours went by, that most of those wanted ads would remain unanswered.
Many people have been making the comment that every year on September 11th the weather is clear and crisp, just like that day 16 years ago. Today it is cloudy, it is not a clear blue sky, it is not a bright, warming, optimistic sun. The reality has set in. Our nation is not the same nation that is was on September 10, 2001. We can never go back. True, we can never forget, nor should we, but we can never go back. The United States is not infallible. Our truth is now different, everything changed because of the events at the Twin Towers, at the Pentagon, in Shanksville, PA. And we should never forget.
I can not imagine what strength of character it must have taken for the volunteers, both career and civilian, to make their way downtown to the Financial District or to the Pentagon or to the meadow in Pennsylvania. They didn't know what they were walking into. They didn't know what they would find. They for sure were not thinking about how it would affect them years down the road. But they did it. They went. In fact so many went that they were turned back.
I wish I could say that I did something heroic that day sixteen years ago, but alas I can not. I stayed in my home. I watched the news. I waited, with the nation, for some good news to come out of this nightmare. But I can say that every year since 2001 I have remembered. I have taken a minute or two out of my day and meditated on what 9/11/01 means to me and the nation and in the broader concept, the world.
I try to stay non-political on this blog, for I feel that was not my point of starting www.1000miles1step.com. But I do have to point out all of the events going on around us, just in the United States, recently. We have wild fires in the west, hurricanes in the east, DACA all over, committees being disbanded, protest rallies getting out of control and people mortally wounded. The way to improve the climate, both natural and political, is not by shutting things down. It is by opening things up. Start a respectful conversation, where both parties listen politely and considerately. Perhaps they agree to disagree, but they are talking, each side presenting his or her beliefs. Talking is necessary. Shutting people down, intimidating people is not the way to improve anything.
If September 11th can teach us anything it is that when the chips are down more often than not people are good and kind and want to help. Unfortunately they are the same ones who do so quietly, not drawing attention to themselves. It is the loud and boisterous ones who shut down the flow of information. Those that crave the attention are self-promoting. Today I will find someone quietly making the world a better place for others and walk up to them and thank them. It is the very least that I can do.
I wish you love, and peace, and the ability to speak your mind in a constructive environment.
Why I'm Blogging
Just your average 40 something trying to find the way in which she can make sense of her life. I hope you'll join me for this journey.