How 9/11 Changed My 2nd Day of Teaching . . . Ever.

"Never forget" is a mantra easier said than done. Because the world just marches on, doesn't it? Our lives just keep happening. Unless we purposefully carve out moments to remember important things, we won't. It's just the way we are. The events of September 11th were markedly terrible for the history of our nation and the world. The largest foreign attack on U.S. soil? Terrorism had crossed the seas.
       Here's what I remember of that day:
       I began my teaching career on September 10th, 2001. My first day teaching I had 7th, 9th, and 11th grade English classes, a 9th grade Bible class, a study hall, and some other class I can't remember. That first day was exhausting and overwhelming, especially for a 22-year-old kid who didn't even have his teaching credential yet. Heck, I was only 4 years older than a couple of my students! I went to bed that night, zonked out, then was awakened the next morning to a rude reality.
       At that time, I was not yet engaged to my now-wife and was still living at home. I remember the knock at my bedroom door at around 5am, my father opening my door, and him saying,
       "Hey, Son, I know you're sleepy, but I think you should come see this."
       I interrogated him a bit (because doggonit, I was not ready to slither out of bed yet), and he convinced me to come see for myself.
       I sprawled groggily on the couch and stared at the television. A building I'd never been aware of before was on fire. That morning, I would learn about the World Trade Center in New York, that there were two towers, and that they were an important center of trade.
       We, like much of America, sat there watching the building smoke and burn, learning about the airplane and the ideas behind it, as a second plane crashed into the other tower.
       We were stunned. I called my sleep-coma'd girlfriend (now wife) and said, "I think something important is happening. You're going to want to wake up and turn on the T.V."
       I and my dad and my girlfriend over the phone sat there processing and panicking a little and prognosticating about future attacks.
       Dad said we still had to get ready to go to school. "The world isn't going to just stop because of this. I've gotta go be principal, and you've gotta go teach."
       So I went to my classroom, and students arrived, and the day was a blur of learning mixed with new and scary discussions, and occasionally we were interrupted by someone making an announcement of the Pentagon getting attacked and Flight 93 going down in a field. We prayed. We learned. We went on.
       And here we are, 14 years later, living in a totally different world than existed the day I started teaching.
       It's safer ... and more dangerous.
       It's more informed ... and more confusing.
       It's more connected ... and more segregated.
       It's more divided ... and more unified.
       It's global ... and more national.
       It's more aware ... and more ignorant.
       It's faster ... just faster.
       And every year a new set of students to teach about now and the past, about what their world is like because of events like this one 14 years ago when evil attacked and so many people responded by making inspiring sacrifices for people they didn't even know. We should never forget because when we forget what has happened, we can't make sense of what is happening.
       Teach on.
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