What do you remember about this day so many years ago?
This is one of those events where people would always remember where they were, and what they were doing. (Again, brain research tells us that memories are associated with strong emotions!)
I remember where I was when Kennedy was shot. (Yes, I really am that old!) I was 8 years old in my third grade class. The principal got on the intercom and told us to pray. She didn't tell us why, she just told us to pray. (Yep, Catholic School!)
I got home that afternoon to find my mother watching the TV, talking on the phone and crying. I watched a little bit of the TV to find out what was happening. I saw that clip in Dallas of the famous motorcade, with President Kennedy falling over and Jackie reacting... I saw that over and over.
I sensed the huge sadness of the event, said something like "aw, that's too bad", and went out to play with my friends.
Almost 40 years later: One beautiful September morning, I was in my second grade classroom. My student teacher was about to have her first evaluation by her supervising teacher, and one of my students was about to get a baby sister.
One of the teacher assistants in our school stopped into the classroom and said she'd cover the classroom, both my student teacher and I should go to the office. She quickly whispered something to me about a plane crash.
I went to the principal's office to find several teachers watching the TV. Some were crying, some looked quite shaken. The first tower had just collapsed. They kept showing the second plane hitting the second tower over and over. Then the second tower collapsed. It was surreal. Teachers came in and out to find out what was going on.
We decided not to tell the children. They were rather young to "get it", and this was the sort of thing that was best coming from parents. Before going back to class, I stopped into my daughter's classroom and gave her a big hug. (I never did this! I tried very hard to stay out of the way of my daughter's class, so she was quite surprised... but her teacher understood.) I told her, "I just needed to give you a hug today."
We took the kids out for an extra long recess that day. The teachers all huddled together, trying to stay strong. The kids all played on that beautiful September day in New England. A couple of children were dismissed early that day. We gave them all a break from homework that night.
When I got home, I told my daughter about what had happened. I watched it on the news over and over. I called my sister and we talked and cried. My daughter went outside to play. History repeats itself.
What happened over the next few weeks was interesting. Flags flew everywhere. People were warmer to each other, even total strangers. Patriotism became stronger. People were proud of their country.
About a week later, I was at a local apple orchard listening to blue grass music and celebrating fall on yet another beautiful fall day in New England. I remember one man pointing to the sky and saying, "a plane". The crowd was silent. Seeing a plane in the sky wasn't unusual, but this was the first one we'd seen since September 11th. We all watched the plane go by silently, then turned and smiled at each other. They were hopeful smiles.
Fast forward to the present. Right now is one of the roughest times our country has been through that I can recall in my many, many years. People are angry. Unemployment is high and morale is low. People are doubting the strength of our government. People are doubting the strength of our economy. People are scared.
But I still believe. Maybe it's that Catholic school upbringing in the 60s or living through the Vietnam war protests of the 60s and 70s. Or maybe it's something that my parents taught me. But I believe in my country. I believe we will work out all the problems and be a stronger country in the long run. And I'm still proud to be an American.
No matter how many times I hear this song, I'll end up weeping by the end: