Where Were You When The Planes Hit?

My tribute to Craig Damian Lilore can be found here.

Mamacita says:  I’m guessing that many most bloggers will be posting tributes this weekend, and telling the blogosphere ‘where we were’ when the planes hit the World Trade Center. Here is mine. This is actually the second third fourth fifth sixth seventh time I’ve posted this on 9/11, so if it seems familiar, you’re not crazy. Well, not on this issue, anyway.

==

The morning began like any other; we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, and sat back down to watch Channel One News, which had been taped at 3:00 that morning in the school library, thanks to the timer. But Channel One News didn’t come on.

Instead, the secretary’s voice, over the intercom, told the teachers to “please check your email immediately.” We did. And we found out what had happened.

I scrolled down the monitor and read the end of the message. The superintendent had ordered all teachers to be absolutely mum all day about the tragedy. We were not to answer any questions from students, and we were especially not to offer any information to them.

The day went by in a blur. Many parents drove to the school, took their kids out, and brought them home. Between classes, frightened groups of students gathered in front of their lockers and whispered, gossiped, and cried, and begged us for information. By that time, the superintendent’s order had been seconded by the principals, and we were unable to give these terrified kids any information. In the computer labs, the MSN screens told the 8th graders the truth, but they, too, were instructed NOT to talk about it to the other students. Right, like THAT happened. The story was being repeated by 8th graders, and it was being told bloody-killing-deathtrap-you’re next-video-game-style.

At noon, many of the students were picked up by parents and taken home or out for lunch. Those few who returned had a big tale to tell. The problem was, the tale was being told by children, and few if any of the facts were straight. The tale was being told scary-style, and the atmosphere in the building got more and more strained. We are only a few miles away from an immensely large Navy base, where ammunition and bombs are made, and we’ve always known it was a prime target, which means, of course, that we are, too. Many of my children’s parents worked there. The base was locked down and those parents did not come home that night.

Reasonable questions were answered with silence, or the statement: “You’ll find out when you get home.”

This, added to all the rumors and gossip spread by children, turned my little sixth graders into terrified toddlers.

As teachers, we were furious and disgusted with the superintendent’s edict. We wanted to call all the students into the gym and calmly tell them the truth in words and ways that would be age-appropriate. We wanted to hug them and assure them that it was far away and they were safe. We asked for permission to do this, and it was denied. Our orders were ‘silence.’ We hadn’t been allowed to hug them for years, of course, but there are times and places when hugs ARE appropriate. No matter, the superintendent stood firm: no information whatsoever.

The day went by, more slowly than ever a day before. The students grew more and more pale and frightened. We asked again, and again he stood firm that no information whatsoever was to be given out.

By the end of the day, the children were as brittle as Jolly Rancher Watermelon Sticks.

A few minutes before the bell rang to send them home, a little girl raised her hand and in a trembling voice that I will never forget, asked me a question. “Please, is it true that our parents are dead and our houses are burned down?”

That was it. I gathered my students close and in a calm voice explained to them exactly what had happened. I told them their parents were alive and safe, and that they all still had homes to go to.

The relief was incredible. I could feel it cascading all through the room.

I was, of course, written up for insubordination the next day, but I didn’t care. My phone had rung off the hook that night with parents thanking me for being honest with their children. That was far more important than a piece of paper that said I’d defied a stupid inappropriate order meted out by a man who belonged in the office of a used car lot, not in a position of power over children’s lives.

The next day at school, in my room, we listened to some of the music that had been ‘specially made about the tragedy. I still have those cd’s and I’ve shared them with many people over the past few years.  It is true that kids cried again, but it was good to cry. It was an appropriate time to cry. We didn’t do spelling or grammar that day. There are times when the “business as usual” mindset simply is not appropriate.

I wish administrators would realize that kids are a lot tougher than we might think. Kids are also a lot more sensitive that we might realize. It’s an odd combination, and we as educators must try our best to bring the two ends of the emotional spectrum together and help these kids learn to deal with horrible happenings and still manage to get through the day as well as possible.

Ignoring an issue will not help. Morbidly focusing on an issue will not help. Our children are not stupid, and to treat them as such is not something that builds trust. Our children deserve answers to their questions.

How can we expect our children to learn to find a happy medium if we don’t show them ourselves, when opportunities arise?

September 11, 2001 – September 11, 2011. God bless us, every one.


Comments

Where Were You When The Planes Hit? — 22 Comments

  1. I remember that day in your room because we were all so scared and nobody would tell us anything. Some of the kids were scared to go home and was dreading the bus coming. You were the only one who told us the truth. It was such a relief, I will never forget how much better I felt after you hugged us and promised us that everything would be the same when we got home. The Crane kids weren’t so lucky, some of my friends stayed with m e for a few days until their parents were released to come home again. But after all those years I want to thank you for being the only teacher with guts in that whole building.

    I already loved you for feeding us breakfast before istep, but after that day, I knew you were the best ever, and a real teacher. Too bad so many of the othrs in our school were so creepy. My little sister is going there now and comes home every night talking about how creepy stalky and mean it is in PE. Not the kids, the teacher. YOu know.

    P.S. My mom is reading over my shoulder and she says “second the emotion.”

    Thank you, Mrs. Goodwin, because you are what the others oughto be..

  2. I remember that day in your room because we were all so scared and nobody would tell us anything. Some of the kids were scared to go home and was dreading the bus coming. You were the only one who told us the truth. It was such a relief, I will never forget how much better I felt after you hugged us and promised us that everything would be the same when we got home. The Crane kids weren’t so lucky, some of my friends stayed with m e for a few days until their parents were released to come home again. But after all those years I want to thank you for being the only teacher with guts in that whole building.

    I already loved you for feeding us breakfast before istep, but after that day, I knew you were the best ever, and a real teacher. Too bad so many of the othrs in our school were so creepy. My little sister is going there now and comes home every night talking about how creepy stalky and mean it is in PE. Not the kids, the teacher. YOu know.

    P.S. My mom is reading over my shoulder and she says “second the emotion.”

    Thank you, Mrs. Goodwin, because you are what the others oughto be..

  3. I was teaching, too. I wonder how much my students (high schoolers then) remember of how we spent that day. They were a small group of emotionally impaired and otherwise troubled boys, but I don’t remember a single word from any of them. We just stared at the classroom television, all day. I wept.

  4. I was teaching, too. I wonder how much my students (high schoolers then) remember of how we spent that day. They were a small group of emotionally impaired and otherwise troubled boys, but I don’t remember a single word from any of them. We just stared at the classroom television, all day. I wept.

  5. Hi Mamacita

    It was night time here in Australia, so as teachers we walked in to school the next day to face students who now believed the world was at war! I was greeted in the photocopier room by a 16 year old who asked me if he would have to give up school to join the army (he didn’t want to and was quite distressed by the prospect!).

    We had been given advice by email overnight about what we could and couldn’t say and we were supposed to try to restrict what the students saw on TV and computers . . . too late!

    You are right . . . children look to the adults they trust to help them make sense of the world! If we just say nothing then they rely only on their imaginations and we know how fertile they are because we spend every day encouraging them. In times of trauma they need us to continue to advise them, not just shut them out . . . they need to know what our strategies are for getting through difficult days . . . they need to know that what they feel is normal and ok and we feel it too!

    Saying nothing does not send a message of comfort, solidarity or strength . . . it sends a message of confusion.

    Thank you for your post.

    Diggers27

  6. Hi Mamacita

    It was night time here in Australia, so as teachers we walked in to school the next day to face students who now believed the world was at war! I was greeted in the photocopier room by a 16 year old who asked me if he would have to give up school to join the army (he didn’t want to and was quite distressed by the prospect!).

    We had been given advice by email overnight about what we could and couldn’t say and we were supposed to try to restrict what the students saw on TV and computers . . . too late!

    You are right . . . children look to the adults they trust to help them make sense of the world! If we just say nothing then they rely only on their imaginations and we know how fertile they are because we spend every day encouraging them. In times of trauma they need us to continue to advise them, not just shut them out . . . they need to know what our strategies are for getting through difficult days . . . they need to know that what they feel is normal and ok and we feel it too!

    Saying nothing does not send a message of comfort, solidarity or strength . . . it sends a message of confusion.

    Thank you for your post.

    Diggers27

  7. Just reading this for the first time. Things were different here in Mi. at least in my town. Schools let out early and buses were called in and kids taken home. Stores and some businesses closed early. The whole town was kind of a ghost town early in the day and everyone was home in front of a TV set. I think that tramatizing a child with witholding information is just WRONG. You did the right thing by informing them no matter what the administration said.That day will live with us forever..

  8. Just reading this for the first time. Things were different here in Mi. at least in my town. Schools let out early and buses were called in and kids taken home. Stores and some businesses closed early. The whole town was kind of a ghost town early in the day and everyone was home in front of a TV set. I think that tramatizing a child with witholding information is just WRONG. You did the right thing by informing them no matter what the administration said.That day will live with us forever..

  9. I will comment again – and say pretty much the same thing as I said last year. Please post this EVERY year, and when you are no longer able to, I hope that your children will continue to do so.

  10. I will comment again – and say pretty much the same thing as I said last year. Please post this EVERY year, and when you are no longer able to, I hope that your children will continue to do so.

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  15. I was in the towers shortly before they were hit and fell. I lost many coworkers who I knew well, as well as being in personal danger myself.

    It had been a long time since I’ve actually wept over 9/11.

    This was a horrible cruelty to these young children and a complete abdication of any sense of humanity by the superintendent. That writeup should be one of your most prized possessions.

  16. I was in the towers shortly before they were hit and fell. I lost many coworkers who I knew well, as well as being in personal danger myself.

    It had been a long time since I’ve actually wept over 9/11.

    This was a horrible cruelty to these young children and a complete abdication of any sense of humanity by the superintendent. That writeup should be one of your most prized possessions.

  17. We weren’t forbidden to talk about it (I was teaching in a high school at the time), and I took a few days from “regular” class stuff to go over what had REALLY happened (versus the “Well, I heard yada yada yada…”) and what we REALLY knew (versus “We speculate blah blah blah…”). I took the time to let them get their fear and anger out and then told them that it needed to be channeled productively (not “Let’s bomb ’em all!”–whoever ” ’em” were at that time when we knew so little.) We discussed bias and speculation and how to tell what was factual information versus what was merely being bandied about as possibilities. (Sorry for the lack of eloquence here, as I’m having one of those brain-dead evenings for some reason.) Anyway, I wanted them to take the time to discuss what they were feeling and to figure out how to take what they were reading and hearing and find the truth amidst all the speculation.

    I will never forget that day and those weeks after, being around all those kids and seeing their fear and anger and pain…

    I commend you for standing up to administration and helping those kids feel a little less fearful and uncertain in a time of such great fear and uncertainty. You are an amazing person, Mamacita, and those kids were lucky to have you on their side.

  18. We weren’t forbidden to talk about it (I was teaching in a high school at the time), and I took a few days from “regular” class stuff to go over what had REALLY happened (versus the “Well, I heard yada yada yada…”) and what we REALLY knew (versus “We speculate blah blah blah…”). I took the time to let them get their fear and anger out and then told them that it needed to be channeled productively (not “Let’s bomb ’em all!”–whoever ” ’em” were at that time when we knew so little.) We discussed bias and speculation and how to tell what was factual information versus what was merely being bandied about as possibilities. (Sorry for the lack of eloquence here, as I’m having one of those brain-dead evenings for some reason.) Anyway, I wanted them to take the time to discuss what they were feeling and to figure out how to take what they were reading and hearing and find the truth amidst all the speculation.

    I will never forget that day and those weeks after, being around all those kids and seeing their fear and anger and pain…

    I commend you for standing up to administration and helping those kids feel a little less fearful and uncertain in a time of such great fear and uncertainty. You are an amazing person, Mamacita, and those kids were lucky to have you on their side.

  19. I have read this 3? years I think and am angered at the administration every time I do!

    Please — post it EVERY year!

    I haven’t posted in my blog in over 6 months, but probably will today.

    God Bless.

  20. I have read this 3? years I think and am angered at the administration every time I do!

    Please — post it EVERY year!

    I haven’t posted in my blog in over 6 months, but probably will today.

    God Bless.

  21. Thanks for the post, Mamacita. My youngest could have been one of your terrified 6th-graders. No one at her elementary school “officially” told the kids anything. They uncovered bits and pieces of what happened from classmates returning from appointments. They guessed that something terrible had happened because of the huge number of parents picking up kids and the haunted look in the teachers’ eyes. My daughter wrote about that terrible day, and the way it was handled at her school, for one of her college essays. I’ve got a tribute posted today, too, from a high school teacher’s perspective. Thanks for posting this today.

  22. Thanks for the post, Mamacita. My youngest could have been one of your terrified 6th-graders. No one at her elementary school “officially” told the kids anything. They uncovered bits and pieces of what happened from classmates returning from appointments. They guessed that something terrible had happened because of the huge number of parents picking up kids and the haunted look in the teachers’ eyes. My daughter wrote about that terrible day, and the way it was handled at her school, for one of her college essays. I’ve got a tribute posted today, too, from a high school teacher’s perspective. Thanks for posting this today.

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