Sunday, September 11, 2005

I was in the computer lab.

September 11, for me, began when I heard some buzz on the radio about a plane hitting a building. On that particular Tuesday, I found myself getting a few pieces of paper signed for my Winchester Thurston retirement benefits... something 401K-ish in nature. In all honesty, I can't recall for the life of me now. But there I was, waiting for Bernie to take care of the tedious paperwork, when I started to pick up a few words from the radio.

At that point, you see, no one really understood what was happening. It was, for the moment, still a horrible -- yet not earth-shattering -- accident. Everyone was still working, processing this and that in the school's financial office. GW was blowing smoke about finding out the details, and we were all wonderfully ignorant. Or do I mean "innocent?" I don't know. Maybe both.

Something, however, must have registered, because walking out of the building, I looked up at the sky, thinking how blue it was. And how silent. "I'll get Chantel's radio," I thought to myself, crossing the street and walking back to WT's high school. "This is too important, other people have to know."

Since the psychology class was in my classroom, I took her radio to the computer lab. For years I grew up hearing stories about that began with the question: "Where were you when...?" You call fill in the blank with any tragedy. Kennedy, Jack Ruby, Princess Diana, whomever.

As I fiddled with the dial, trying to find a station that wasn't static, I told Chantel and the two students in there that a plane had hit a building in New York and I wanted to know the details of the accident. A moment later, a reporter's voice filled the room.

"Oh my God, the Pentagon's on fire."

Years from now, when someone asks "Where were you when...?" I'll have an answer: the computer lab on the first floor at Winchester Thurston with one teacher and two students. The walls were a bland yellow, the lab had a white board. There were shelves running the length of the outside wall, waist-high. The radio was in front of the last window, the one to the back of the room, next to the computer guy's office. It was the second period of the day, my free hour because the writing class didn't meet that day.

The remainder of September 11th was spent comforting students and trying to keep a semblance of order so that the lower grades would not learn about the tragedy from some hysterical high school student. How bizarre it was to watch the towers crumble while the elementary school students enjoyed morning recess, their laughter a surreal soundtrack to the whole event. Later, my seniors and I talked about how this might affect them. We talked about how this might be, would be, different from the 1991 Gulf War, during which I was a high school senior. God love those elementary teachers. Talking to seniors is one thing, you can acknowledge the events and somewhat sort through the emotions. But those men and women kept teaching, acting as if nothing were wrong all for the sake of those little ones.

I did my share of 9/11 donating. My husband and I, childless at the time, even inquired about adopting those orphaned by the attack. We talked about bombing those bastards and turning the desert into a sheet of glass, making it a parking lot. Our anger knew no bounds, and the thought of the innocent losing their lives mattered little.

Gradually, of course, common sense began to win. After all, why slaughter thousands of innocents in the quest for revenge? Darned if I know. Mr. Bush, can you help us out here?

He can't answer right now, dear readers. He's neck-deep in southern sludge, mired in muck, and trying to deal with an 800-pound gorilla that leapt onto his back and is hanging on rather tenaciously. Methinks that the beast will make it rather difficult to sit on Trent Lott's porch, but I'm thinking that the right spindoctors will be able to pull that overgrown monkey off by then. Good thing. I hear that those nasty beasts make vacationing a real challenge.

However, with our feckless leader's approval rating being so pitiful (only 4 out of 10 Americans think he knows which end is up), this might take some serious spinning. Not that a lot of it isn't going on already -- my current fav is the line that FEMA is more of a "back up" or something to local emergency response teams. You know, if my entire city is under ten feets of water, I'm thinking that we'll need more then the locals to get things rolling. Then again, what do I know? I'm not trained for a disaster of such proportions. Not like Brownie.

1 comment:

Chantel said...

You captured that day perfectly. I'll add Tyler Filipek saying, "This is a joke, right? War of the worlds stuff?" just as you were fiddling with the dial. What a surreal day.