There has been a lot written the past 3 weeks about the 10th Anniversary of September 11th, 2001. And it is one reason that my own voice was somewhat silent about it, as I understand that I am not a journalist or a writer. I knew that it would be hard for me to write anything that would add to the conversation.
And yet, on Sunday, I felt this sense of urgency that I must not forget that moment in time – ever. And of all things it was during a Pre-Calculus tutoring session with our 15 year old daughter and her best friend. They were 5 in 2001. And her best friend is the oldest of four girls. The two youngest are 10 and 7. Our daughter spends so much time at their house they refer to her as “Cinco”, as in the 5th child.
Our daughter’s best friend has a Mom that is incredibly funny, has a great wit, and seems to somehow balance the demands of work and home, and all that comes with the life of four very active children. And she does it with a deeper sense of understanding then many parents I know.
Our daughter’s best friend has an equally hard working Dad, that somehow, manages day in and day out to handle 5 Girls under the age of 15 when Cinco is visiting, his wife and his mother-in-law, who all live under the same roof. He is just a really really good guy. And the 4th of July is an important holiday.
He is a 9/11/2001 survivor.
His story is riveting. His survival is a miracle. His memories will be forever. His wife and family know both the guilt (why did he survive when so many did not?) and the joy (he survived) of a moment that forever changed their lives. They have a sense of appreciation that allows them to live today, in a way that creates a positive caring for tomorrow - because they came so dangerously close to not having more moments to build that legacy.
On 9/11/2001, I was about 1700 miles away from my daughter’s best friends family. I did not know them yet. I did not know their story. But, for a brief moment, in the aftermath of it all, I experienced an incredible moment in my life as an educator. At the time I was the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction in my suburban high school district – Stevenson HSD 125.
Some may remember that 9/11/2001 was a Tuesday morning. The following Friday there was a request for a national moment of silence at 12:00pm EST. At our high school we used a live feed into our classrooms, set up big screens in our commons and lunch areas, and at 11:AM Central time, our students participated in this national moment; silence, a signing of the national anthem, an opportunity to donate to the recovery and relief effort, and words of comfort and encouragement orchestrated by our Student Council leaders.
I stood in our cafeteria among 100’s of our students during this 20-minute reflection and response on what was a very fresh and open wound. All around me, 15 and 16 year old students - students that for the most part live in that teenager “it’s all about me world”, were in a deep commitment to the moment. There was a spirit of fellowship, of giving, of selflessness, of caring that I have rarely observed in all of my years in education. It was everyone. And it moved me to tears – with students I did not know. With teenagers that in that moment cared deeply and wept for the families, like my daughter’s best friend. There was this triumph of our humanity, amidst the tragedy that is now simply known as nine eleven.
Our current seniors were 7-8 years old, in 2001. Current 2nd graders (The class of 2022) were not born yet. I hope that whatever we do as adults, responsible for educating the next generation of students, that we will teach the class of 2022, a “commitment to caring” and giving to and for others. This must become one of the sustaining responses to the tragedy of September 11th, 2001 – as that class recognizes and understands the 20th anniversary of a moment we must never forget.