I had to rush yesterday morning because my two little guys were coming early, so I just posted a picture commemorating 9.11. As I watched those two little cuties playing, I couldn’t help but whisper a prayer that the world would be safe for them. I don’t think any of us imagined otherwise for our own children until that fateful day twelve years ago.
I’ve written before that I was in the classroom teaching that morning when a teacher told me that a plane had crashed into the WTC. I switched on the TV, and we watched, though we really just thought it was a horrific accident. Terrorism? It never entered our minds. Then the principal ordered all TVs to be turned off, lest the children become too frightened. I had no idea what was happening until teachers started to pass along information. Then parents began pulling their kids from school, and I began to check on my own. It wasn’t until I returned home that I learned the full extent of the tragedy. I guess I’ll always remember that day, as others from former generations remember Pearl Harbor or the assassination of JFK.
One of the memories I keep actually occurred two weeks after that day. I had been assigned to chair a visiting evaluation team at a school in North Jersey – right across the river from NYC. The four team members had been assigned, and I had made arrangements to do a pre-visit of the school prior to the evaluation days. Then I began hearing from the Middle States Association, who handled the accreditation, that members had resigned from the team due to fear. I could understand that, but I also knew that the school would have gone through much preparation for our visit, and I refused to allow my own trepidation to deter me. So, MSA was able to procure two people to assist me, and I planned for the visit.
When I went up there for the pre-visit, I realized how close I was to NYC, since you could see it from our hotel! Then, I learned that the Franciscans who lived there had lost so many members that day. Parents and other relatives of the students had been killed, and there was a definite pall lying on the community. I asked the principal if she wanted to continue with the evaluation the next month, and she assured me they were ready.
When the team gathered, I explained that we needed to be sensitive to what had happened, and I couldn’t have asked for two better people to carry out the assignment. The friars invited us to an opening night dinner, which followed a presentation and “Viennese Night,” a dessert extraordinaire! The school itself was welcoming, and we could go about our tasks simply and quietly. I later thought that even if the school had been totally derelict in their process, I still would have pushed for accreditation, simply based on all they had experienced. Fortunately, though, the school was excellent, and they received my highest scores.
I returned home from the visit a bit more somber than I had from other visits. I hugged my kids more closely, and I thanked God we had been spared. Only a hundred miles separated me from that town, and I shuddered to think that I was so close to the horrors of that day. I know I’ll never forget it.