This morning, the children were looking out the window and one of them asked me if it was a holiday. I replied no and asked why.
They commented that the street was lined with flags again. We can see eight of them from our window.
Ah. I told them it was September 11.
Eleven years later.
One day, they will remember the way I tell this story.
I remember being younger and paying attention to the adults around me and their stories.
I remember when my elders could relate with such detail their own personal account of that moment for the events that would highlight history books in the years to come.
The 1929 stock market crash. D-Day. When JFK was shot. When that first boot touched the moon. When the Berlin Wall came down.
I have a vague and childish memory of the Challenger's explosion in my first grade classroom. But the classroom in my memory doesn't match the classroom I know I sat in. I think the memory is mixed with the classrooms of future NASA launches...full of prayers and hopes that what I saw at six years old wouldn't happen again.
I should remember when the Berlin Wall came down. I was ten. But I suppose that the fact my grandmother gave me a piece of it enclosed in glass attests to her memory and relief and gratitude because the Cold War years that preceded it were real for her. After all, she saw every war of the twentieth century. I was just a child who grew up feeling safe and secure.
But September 11, 2001.
I was the adult, the teacher. In a classroom of eleventh-graders, who had seemed so sure of themselves in those first few weeks of school.
I remember the substitute teacher across the hall who told me quietly to turn on my TV. She didn't say anything else. Her eyes spoke volumes. It was right after the first tower had been hit.
I remember the tears of my students. Some had family members they were worried about. My own fear and desires to call anyone I knew with connections in New York. My thoughts of what this might mean for my husband, an F-15E pilot...who I'd only been married to for a little over three months.
I remember walking down our hallway and every classroom having the television on. Mine didn't go off at all that day. Grammar and literature were not so important. I asked my students that day to feel free to journal and watch. And talk to each other.
Two colleagues and I followed each other back home that afternoon to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. We waited in a line at the gate for almost two hours while each and every car was searched.
For the previous three months of our newlywed life, I had giggled whenever the security officer waved me through the gate and saluted, not knowing if I was the officer that the car tags indicated. I've never been saluted again. My identification has been checked each and every time I have driven on a base for the last eleven years.
In the following days, Brent would sleep during the day and patrol the night skies above New York and Washington D.C. looking at the lights below. Praying. Identifying the bright stars above.
Over my next few days, I would count the flags flown on my 13 minute drive between home and the school where I taught. Once I stopped counting in the seventies.
I loved seeing each and every flag.
The love for our country. The honor for the fallen. The pride in our heroes.
I still remember.
You always remember.