I know this is not timely, but I have come to a point in my current work in progress where the character is living in D.C. around the early 2000s, and it is impossible for me to skirt around this subject. However, it is not an easy subject. Still, let’s face the fact that 9-11 changed or totally upset all of our lives. I have an idea how I will incorporate it based on what I know. Even though I have lived in Jacksonville, Florida for forty some years, I was affected by the events of 9-11.
Where was I? I was at school, getting ready to teach my seventh grade class. Students were filtering in, as class started at 9:15. There were always a few students who would be late. One girl, a highly emotional girl on any given day, said “Ms. Canepa, an airplane crashed into the World Trade Center. It’s terrorism. We’re all gonna die!”
I told her, “No. We are not all gonna die. Please calm down. If it was terrorism, they will stop it. If we were in danger, we would have been warned by now.” It’s sounds sort of heartless, but I felt vulnerable and worried about my son who was in kindergarten, as well as sortvof surorised that I heard it first from a student. Would something else be targeted next? Evidently this news was all over the radio, because I heard it from a few other people in the next few hours. At lunch, the TV news was on in our teacher’s lounge. Everyone’s faces were grave. Students were getting checked out early all day. I texted by ex-husband who worked on a military base, wondering if they had beefed up their security. He asked about our son. Inevitably, I checked out my son a little early from his school as well. Although Smart phones were not as popular back then, people undoubtedly were getting footage, it was shared on the internet, and every TV station had constant updates or had suspended all regular programming, because we really needed to see those images on repeat on the hour. Sarcasm intended. It was nightmarish, but even worsened when I picked up my son.
I got my son into the car and asked him how his day was. He said “I saw on TV. Two airplanes crashed into a building,” in a hushed tone, knowing it was real–life and not some high-tech movie, because either he was smart or they, of course, would not show such a movie in school. It also seemed like he realized it could have happened to any of us.
“Where did you see this on TV?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“The TV in the classroom.”
While I was livid, I held that all in and hugged my son, telling him everything would be okay. It was over. Yes, his teacher had evidently been sucked into the media frenzy and had to get every detail. Or maybe watching the news was a regular part of their morning routine? Unlikely for kindergarten, though. All I could do was focus on trying to make him feel safe with me, in our own home.
Sadly, I knew this became the day I discovered I could not shield my child from the evil in this world. It had already been played out before his eyes before I could even comfort him or explain what had happened. He still remembers it to this day, though he seems detached from whatever he had felt that day as a small five-year-old.
Straight out of my 2001 journal: “Evil just reached a hand in and put a strangle-grip on our world. And we still don’t know who did it. It leaves me with quite an insecure feeling. Reminds me of what really matters, and what doesn’t….” He became a little more emotional in the next few months, and some of his behaviors surprised me, but we dealt with it. I can not imagine what it was like for those living in New York or who had family that lived there; many lost their loved ones.
What were you doing the day 9-11 occurred?