My third graders were working on a writing project when the classroom phone rang. The office said to pack up one of my students because she was going home. I no sooner got her packed up when the phone rang again and two more students were going home. I asked the office why were all these students leaving. "Oh I guess no one came to your classroom. We will send someone up."
Georgia appeared at my door and said, "We aren't sure what is going on but a plane has hit the World Trade Center. Go to my office. You can see it from my window." Smoke was streaming up hundreds of feet in the air. I thought of all the class trips I had taken to the top of the World Trade Center and feared for those who were trapped on the top floors. Who knew that it would be the last time I would see the towers grace the New York skyline?
I kept the students on task and tried to stay calm. Georgia said that I needed to find out if any student had a parent who works in Manhattan, but not tell them yet what is going on.
I announced to the class that we were going to switch to Math. "Children, just a few days ago we learned how to take a survey and record it on a tally table. Mrs. Rocco said that she thinks more of our parents work in Manhattan. I think more of our parents work in Queens. Let's take a tally and see who is right!" I proceeded to mark their replies on a chart and put a check on a class list circling the names of students who said their parents worked in Manhattan. One student proudly said his Mom's office is in the biggest building in Manhattan but didn't know if it was the towers or the Empire State building. I put a red star next to his name and prayed for her safety.
Students left one by one. The children who were not picked up were sent to the library. When I opened the door to the room I saw the smoky view and quickly pulled the shades. My mind was racing. "How am I going to keep them safe? What if they attack other parts of the city? I need to keep them away from the windows. What do I tell them? Should we go to the basement where the walls are thicker? How will I comfort the children if they lose a loved one?"
I can see it all, relive it all.