y friend Allison posted something on Facebook that paralleled my own situation on 9/11 and made me think back to that scary day. She posted about how clearly she remembered teaching on 9/11 and I was reminded how in so many hard, frightening, unbearable situations, teachers often do what they are best at: they keep teaching.
On 9/11, I was in my 6th year of teaching French at a private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. My then 8 month old son was at home at our apartment in Queens with my husband. I remember learning what happened, all the teachers trying to retain a sense of normalcy and calm, which became more difficult as more and more parents came to pick up their children, if only to hug them tightly and take them home. We kept teaching, and during breaks watched the horror unfold on televisions around the school. The whole day, we taught, we stayed with our students - as much as many of us wanted to rush home, to also hug our loved ones and make sure they were all safe.
When I left school that day, I wasn't sure how I would get home. Many teachers at my school lived within walking distance; I lived in Flushing, a two 15 minute walks, two trains trip from school. Up Madison Avenue, zombie-like figures, covered in ash, were still walking north from Ground Zero. By the time I made it to the train station, some trains were running again. From the platform where I changed trains in Queens, we could see smoke billowing up over lower Manhattan. I was never happier to get home and be with my husband and baby.
We were lucky compared to others. In our whole school, only one student lost a stepfather. Many others, whose parents worked in the World Trade Center or were there for business, had extremely close calls. Instead of going into work, one had taken a sick day. Another one had gone to work too late - late enough to know that he need not go in at all. Everyone knew someone who had died or who had escaped.
The next day, we had the day off. The city was in shock and in mourning. The death toll was rising, and people everywhere searched for missing loved ones. All over train stations, bus stops, and anywhere people could put them were pictures and phone numbers, begging us to call if we saw their friends or family. At the same time, the city came together like never before. People were kind and generous, helpful and empathetic. It was an unforgettable time.
And the next day, teachers did what we do: we returned to our schools. We welcomed our students back, we had lessons ready for them, and we taught.