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SEPTEMBER 11 REMEMBRANCE

September 11, 2012

It was an Autumn Tuesday, like many others. I was straightening the house, vacuuming, etc. Just after 10am I turned on the TV.  The twin towers were on TV and there was…well it appeared to me to be SMOKE coming from the towers way up high. I called my Mom, who is in Riverside, CA.

“Are you watching TV right now?”, I asked.

“What channel?”, she asked.

“Any channel! EVERY channel!” I said.

She turned hers on and we watched, silent and incredulous, the phone forgotten between us.

Just then the unexpected, unbelievable sight occurred: Watching LIVE as the second tower was struck by the plane.

Watching it explode before our eyes! Watching it come down shortly afterward.

What a horrible sight to witness LIVE as it was happening!

Absolutely Shocking.

I don’t know–don’t WANT to know what could be worse than seeing that happening, as it was happening. I knew that the world had changed for all of us in that instant.

I can vividly recall that sick feeling when watching the TV and viewing the damage caused by the FIRST plane and then the SECOND plane crashing into the second tower as I watched. Hearing soon after of the THIRD plane that crashed into the Pentagon. The FOURTH plane, crashing in a field in Pennsylvania.

I remember wondering if ALL of the planes in the sky that day would be falling, crashing too.

Did everybody think that too?

The rest of the day was a blur of things that needed to be done. I was due at my job a few hours after seeing the towers fall.

It was as if I was moving under water. Every part of the day ran together with the next. I wanted to get over to my school as quickly as possible, to prepare for the arrival of the kindergartners. They were the first to arrive as we were an After-school program. I knew it was important that I be there for them so as to explain–WHAT?!

I did not know what to tell them. Chances were that the world that we all knew had ended just before 10am pacific.

All I really remember about being at my school that day was that I had an overwhelming desire to see MY FLAG! We had a little classroom flag that was stuck in its wall-holder, just like in every classroom across America. I took it down and took it outside. I placed it on our fence out in front of our school. Like in the Star-Spangled Banner, I needed to see that the flag was still there.

This was something that I remember doing every day for the next three months. Taking the flag from our classroom out to the fence . It soothed me to do this one small thing, for comfort.

I was the voice of reason and sanity for the kids in my class. We were all completely at a loss as to how to handle this sort of news with our students. The “big kids” arrived at their regular time of the day, brimming over with a nervous excitement as it was clear that SOMETHING BIG had happened but they were not sure of what it was.

I tried to alleviate their fears but without giving too many details…

It was sort of a relief that there were not many details to GIVE! We only knew a little bit about what had happened. No one knew WHY or WHO yet and the kids needed to be comforted. They needed all of us (the grown-ups) to reassure them that EVERYTHING WAS FINE. NORMAL.

It was a very scary day and followed by several more scary days and then months.

I was pretty much a newlywed, having gotten married the past April. My husband was out driving his truck and we kept in touch over our cell phones. I don’t remember talking to him after the attacks (although I am certain that I did).

My husband was retired military. He was ready to sign up for another hitch! He is deaf and wears double hearing aids so it was decided by his Audiologist that he would not be of great use to the military and more probability that he would be a liability as he would not be able to tell which direction the shooting was coming from and would very likely drive TOWARD it.
He was not going to war.

Seeing the flag on our fence (I think) gave others a thrill as lots of people tooted their horns as they passed. I know that there were plenty of people who felt the same as I did about wanting (needing) to see the flag because it was soon a common sight to see flags flying on every car.

There were stickers on every bumper and thousands of people bought the little flag dealie that held flags on either side of the car windows. It made everybody’s cars look like German staff cars.

Funny how we eventually figured out that the American flags that everybody bought–all came from China. Interesting!

My school project was born out of this need to see the flag flying. I went out and got some really big pieces of tagboard and lots of paint.

It became a daily part of our routine to paint parts of a GIANT FLAG.

We worked on it for weeks and finally we had them completed and ready to assemble.

I called for a little ceremony for the parents, if they were able to join us (although very few were able to as it was during the day and most of the students had parents that worked).

The kids lined up with all of our wagons and any bikes that could carry our flat flag pieces and we walked together to the High School that shared our back fence as it was located next to our building.

I had one little girl who was a Jehovah’s Witness. They do not salute the flag. I had asked her Mom to come and pick her up early that day, so that I could respect their beliefs. To me, that was what the whole project reflected:

That we as Americans all have different beliefs but we could all get along together and treat one another with respect, regardless of the differences. We were all ONE.

It was OK with the one parent that their child helped to paint some of the sections because it did not resemble a flag in its early creative stages. They were simply large painted panels of the three colors, and some BIG stars that were painted also.

Once we placed them all in the wagons and transported them to the High School, they were about to become a GREAT BIG FLAG.

The pieces fitted together to form a humongous American flag that was big enough to cover the side of a house! I figured that it was approximately 9 feet high and 14 feet wide.

I had taken down a poster from our classroom wall which had the Pledge of Allegiance on it. My plan was to take the whole class on a walk over to the High School football field where we had enough room to piece together our giant creation, with the help of several High School students that joined us. As soon as we headed over there with our funny little kid-parade, that was when I realized that the little girl who was supposed to be picked up early–well she WASN’T. She was right there with us, pulling a wagon full of flag parts. My mind ran nimbly ahead. I saw in my mind’s eye that we would be putting together the parts and it would soon become readily apparent to ALL what it was going to be (which would maybe have caused a problem for that one parent because of her belief, which I was trying to respect). That was the reason why I suggested an early pick-up time for that girl, because I knew that her Mom was a Jehovah Witness.

My mind, racing along, made it clear to me that we could have an INCIDENT. The flag-building was taking place on October 11, just one month after the attack. People were still very sensitive, very aggravated by the events of that day. I had several parents showing up to honor and to be part of our flag-raising. I did not want ANY of the parents to have a problem with what we were doing!

I realized that I was about to be painted into a very tight corner. If I had the little girl join in with us to repeat the pledge: I would be disrespecting the family’s beliefs (ARRRGH! WHY DIDN’T MOM COME WHEN SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO?)

If I had asked this child to sit down and not participate in the pledge, I risked having the other parents make comments! I did not want this child to be singled out or put on the spot in any way, simply by attempting to respect the family and their beliefs.

THIS IS WHERE…

I still congratulate myself on some quick thinking and some lucky circumstances.

I asked that little girl if she wouldn’t mind HOLDING UP the poster that had the words of the Pledge of Allegiance.

I figured that even though the kids are accustomed to reciting the Pledge in their classrooms every day, the PARENTS might’ve been a little bit rusty in their recall of all of the words, hence the poster.

I did not know it beforehand, but there was a man there who worked for the newspaper and they did a nice big color spread of our little ceremony for their article.

I had brought a tape player and some patriotic music with which to listen to as we assembled the flag.

The little girl graciously agreed to hold up our sign of words and everyone (else) recited the Pledge together solemnly.

That was great! Very moving.

As soon as we were finished, the girl’s Mom arrived to take her home and so ALL WAS WELL. I was happy to be able to

respect the family’s beliefs and also protect the child from disparaging remarks as I was sure that it would’ve been quite noticeable to the people there had she simply sat down while we recited the Pledge. The LAST thing I wanted to have happen was for someone to get upset with her for her lack of participation! By giving the girl the sign to hold, I was able to accomplish this. WHEWW!

Mom and daughter were glad to take part in a little bit of the ceremony–but then they left.

The rest of the group sang God Bless America and the Star-Spangled Banner.

TO THIS DAY–

Hearing any rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner causes tears to spring from my eyes. It is a very emotional song.

The flag ceremony was given great coverage in the next day’s newspaper. I still have it.

Here we are, on SEPTEMBER 11, 2012. It has been 11 years since that awful day when the towers fell and America lost it’s innocence. The last time there was an attack on American soil, it was Pearl Harbor. We Americans do not forget these things! The kids in my class were aged 5 to 9 years old. Now those same kids are 16 to 20 years old and maybe some of them have kids of their own now.

This is what we did together to honor our Country!

Our BELIEFS….

Ourselves.

A final note: There was a lot of questioning and criticism in the aftermath of the major event, regarding how it was handled in regard to “telling the children”.

NOTHING is as scary as it can be in the mind of a child. The truth needed to be told to them! It could not be kept from them: The news of the towers and the planes…that was EVERYWHERE! That awful sight of the towers coming down–it could not be avoided as it was shown over and over and over again! This was the event that created the need for News stations such as CNN to begin providing the ticker-tape news at the bottom of the TV screen. It was only LATER that childcare experts began to question how potentially damaging it was to show that same crashing plane over and over again! Many children were convinced that the scene was happening again and again.

No One knew what to do. What was OK or not OK. We began to be concerned for what messages THEY were hearing and seeing. WE WERE ALL HORRIFIED! WE DID NOT KNOW THE RIGHT WAY TO HANDLE NEWS OF THIS SORT.

There was anger, tears, confusion to no end during those dark days of our country.

One child in my class went home and told his Mom some things that made her very upset. This Mom came at me with her claws and teeth!

She told ME that he told HER…

People were jumping out of the windows.

When this Mom told ME that….I was shocked. I had NOT HEARD ABOUT THAT!! Apparently this particular family had lived on the East coast for a time and they knew people who were possibly killed in the towers. THIS MOM TOLD ME about people jumping to their DEATHS from windows that were many many stories up. That was how deadly the fires were, due to the jet fuel burning up high in both towers, that there were people who willingly fell to their certain deaths to escape  a more horrible method of dying.

I could’ve gone through the rest of my entire life without knowing about the people who jumped. I certainly never shared that with any children from my class! I did not KNOW and if I had, I think that I would not have told them a thing like that.

Once the Mom said that, I am pretty sure that she could tell by my reaction that I told no such thing as this.

Really though, NO ONE had any idea of how to react after such a horrible tragedy. There WERE no words for any of us to feel comfort. The world can be a scary place for kids. On September 11, 2001 the world became a scary place for the adults too.

Kids, I want to tell you that we all did our best to shield you from the terrible reality of that day! If we were wrong to try to protect you, I am deeply sorry. If we offered comfort and you took comfort from us, I am truly grateful that I for one was there for you.

Honestly though, it was completely new ground for us to cover. Nobody knew what to do to make it better. We did the best we could!

My brother got married that first October  following the disaster. My husband and I met them in Las Vegas for a few days. We were told that Las Vegas could become a possible TARGET, as it is viewed as a haven for capitalism. We were somewhat nervous to be there. The feeling was exacerbated by the fact that there were SOLDERS everywhere we went. They were being billeted in the big hotels. The base there was called Nellis. It was a hotbed of military activity. My husband, being retired military, had the idea that I should get my military spouse’s ID card so we went to Nellis. This is the base that the Blue Angels use as their base of operations. There is a great sculpture on the way in of the ‘birds’, which I wanted to take a photo of to bring back to my class. My husband said that we could do that on the way out so we drove on past it in his bright red recent model mustang convertible.

We went to the administration building and got my card and then we went through the base exchange or BX. It is just like any grocery store anywhere, only there are military items there too. We bought some hats for my brother-in-law before heading out to the car.

On the way out I reminded my husband about that photo that I wanted. He pulled the car over to the curb (next to some cammo-netted equipment) and I was just getting ready to open the door and sprint across the road to take a picture…

…When I noticed….

…THAT…

WE WERE LOOKING DOWN THE BARREL OF SEVERAL MACHINE GUNS THAT WERE POINTED AT US.

My husband pulled over right in front of the machine gun nest that was guarding the main gate.

I was just about to JUMP OUT AND RUN WITH A SUSPICIOUS LOOKING DETONATOR BOX IN MY HANDS…

It could have been an ugly incident, made more scary by the fact that I might very well have gotten SHOT!

It is not a good idea to be SPONTANEOUS in front of machine guns.

I decided right then and there that I did not really need a photo after all.

This is not the kind of event that you say HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. It is more of a reflective day of meditation and silent prayer for the victims and for their families.

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