Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 with high school kids

Since everyone on facebook seems to be sharing their "where were you?" stories, I thought I'd do the same.

I was a second year teacher at SEHS. Rebecca Byerly, a student I didn't actually teach, but knew, walked up to me as I stood guard outside my room during class change. Her eyes were big, and she was a little agitated. "Ms. Hardy! I heard America was being attacked by terrorists! They flew a plane into a building! Is it true?"

I looked at her with the skepticism of a teacher who had, even in just a year, already seen her fair share of preying on the gullible. "No, Rebecca, I'm sure that's not true. Just go to class, and don't listen to them."

Reassured, she smiled, thanked me, and walked to class. I've often wondered if she remembers that exchange as vividly as I do, and how she reacted when she finally learned it was true.

I learned it because of another student, Isaac Perez. Isaac didn't bother to speak to me; he walked past me into my room and turned on the class tv. When I walked back in at the class change, it was obvious I had been wrong. We all sat there quietly and watched -- just in time to see the second plane hit.

Experiencing tragedy in the classroom is a surreal experience. Even while I was dealing with shock, fear, and sadness, I had to monitor their emotions and figure out the best way to handle them. They had a wide range of reactions --- many sat and cried; one desensitized action-movie fan actually yelled out, "Sweet!" as the tower crumbled.

I don't remember anything I said during 2nd period that day (although I do remember the teacher look I shot that one kid. It must have been vicious, because he slumped in his seat and didn't say another word). I do remember sobbing during my planning period directly after that. I remember thinking my little world would never be the same.

And it is, and it isn't.

Living overseas, I found that the topic of 9/11 would occasionally come up. Most people were saddened by what had happened -- and yet often I would hear comments about how America could finally understand what it had been like in other countries, where people live with the memories of tragedy in their streets every day. I had never before realized how sheltered Americans have been. The thought of an attack in our country seemed impossible. Perhaps it was fitting that I saw the tragedy unfold with a roomful of sophomores; it was time for all of us to do some growing up.

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At 10:17 PM, Blogger Heather and Andrew Downer (and angel little one) said...

I was in keyboarding class... with... umm... who was it? the black lady, not the lady that looked like Bea Arthur... haha :) She wouldnt allow us to turn on the tv... i was soooo pissed. well, everyone was... whoever third block was turned on the tv, i think it was Foust. Then 4th was Ely... everyone just sat in there and cried... well the ones left that didnt have their parents pick them up from school...


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