And they were canopied by the blue sky,
So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful,
That God alone was to be seen in Heaven.
Lord Byron, “The Dream,” 1816
(Julie Cook / County Cork, Kinsale, Ireland / Sept 2015)
(Julie Cook / County Cork, Kinsale, Ireland / Sept 2015)
Despite the calendar refusing to turn from one season to another, there
was that ever so gentle hint of change.
The lack of humidity, coupled by a deep azure blue sky up above,
brought a slight smile to my face while I walked between the two
I was well aware the bell was soon to ring as we readied to move from
2nd period to 3rd.
Over in an adjacent building, I had to pick up some copies for my next class,
so I joyously soaked in the quick respite of peace found outside
on this beautiful September morning.
As I walked back into my building, ready for the bell to ring, I took up
my usual position standing by my classroom door, ready to monitor
the hall during class change.
With the ringing of the bell, doors flung open as a throng of adolescents
chirpped and chatted their way out into the hall…a sea of bodies moving
much like fish, navigating both up, down as well as around the stream of a hallway.
Suddenly, a neighboring teacher and coach, came running up to me grabbing my arm.
“They’ve attacked us…they’ve hit New York and D.C…
“Turn on your television!!!” he yelled out over his shoulder as he continued
racing down the hall.
As my kids began to trickle into the room, I hurriedly went over to
turn on the classroom television.
And there is was…smoke streaming upwards from one of the the
World Trade Towers.
Some of my kids had already gotten wind of what was taking place while
others remained blessedly, albeit briefly, clueless.
There was now a heavy silence in the room as my kids walked in, dropping
their backpacks on the floor as they gathered in front of the T.V.
Some stood, some sat on the table tops, all staring silently at the images on
One girl broke the silence with a panicked plea…
“Mrs. Cook, my dad, my dad, he flew up this morning to New York for business.”
“Go use the phone in my office to call your mom…”
The remainder of the day was a heavy haze.
The teachable moments that day were unfolding before our eyes on every channel
on every television around the world.
There remained a heightened sense of what could possibly happen next.
Following the end of the day, I waited on my son, who was in the 6th grade,
to walk up from the Jr High so we could go home.
It was more than time to go home.
Like the other kids, he walked into my room overwhelmed.
I got my things together and we walked quietly to the car.
This particular night was to be our monthly school board meeting.
It was the night that the Teacher of the Year was to be announced.
I happened to be one of the three teachers nominated.
I was representing the high school.
The two others were from the elementary school and our junior high.
I had so hoped our superintendent would cancel the meeting
but he was of the mindset that we would not let “the terrorists” win…soooo
the meeting was to begin at 7.
I called my husband telling him that I didn’t want him to accompany me
to the meeting that evening but rather I wanted him to stay
home with our son.
At this point, we really didn’t know what else, if anything, would happen.
Plus the heaviness of what was playing out before our eyes was simply
overwhelming…I wanted to be lost in my thoughts.
Before getting ready to head to the BOE, I walked out onto our back deck.
At the time, we lived about an hour west of Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson
Airport…we lived in one of the westerly flight paths…planes overhead
were always common.
On this particular late afternoon, the sky was eerily quiet because the
Government had grounded all US and international flights in and out…
all around the country.
At the BOE meeting, when it was time to begin the meeting, we all stood for
the Pledge of Allegiance—tears poured from all the gathered faces.
The Board Chairman asked for a moment of silence for all the
lives lost and for all those still missing and for those searching.
He then lead us in reciting The Lord’s Prayer.
The sobs were palpable….
And so now, all these 20 years later…
what have we gleaned, what have we learned?
As an educator, that is always the question…what has been learned?
Looking around…I think we’ve learned very little, if anything.
Despite our vow to remember, we’ve actually forgotten.
We’ve skewed the factual with the desirable.
We’ve softened as we’ve chosen to ignore or even twist reality.
When speaking of Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill once mused
“What kind of people do they think we are?
Is it possible they do not realize that we shall never cease
to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson
which they and the world will never forget?”
His was a vow that those oppressors and usurpers of democratic freedoms
should never forget that those who have chosen the path of freedom
have vowed to fight the good fight to the bitter end.
I dare say our leadership today has long forgotten such a vow.
The vow to defend Western Civilization from the onslaught of
tyranny and oppression.
But rather our leadership and many of us have actually fostered a culture
of ill that strives to despise itself.
We have turned away and within… as we choose to devour ourselves
from the inside out.
Did approximately 3000 people die in vain September 11th 2001?
What of those individuals who when faced with the choice of burning to
death chose to jump to their death…were those heinous choices in vain?
Did thousands of first responders die in vain that day as they raced toward disaster
rather than retreating?
Have thousands more, who over the past 20 years have fallen victim to lasting
toxins, have they suffered and died in vain?
Have thousands of servicemen and women died in vain defending
the very freedoms that you and I simply take for granted?
Did 13 servicemen and women die last week, in vain, when hastily retreating
from an undignified exit to an unfinished mission all because of a sitting
president’s ill advised plan?
I really don’t know what to think on this 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Who is this America that now looks in the mirror?
I dare say that all those who gave and have given their lives
on and since that fateful September day would no longer recognize the
nation we have become.
Time lessens our sorrow but it also dulls our minds and hardens our hearts.
“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.”