Some things we never forget.I'll always remember where I was and what I was doing 10 years ago today. So will you.
It was a Tuesday. I had just finished teaching my first period class and was en route to the post office to mail the edited draft of my new book to the publisher. The most pressing thing on my mind that day was college football. Georgia had just lost a game to South Carolina three days earlier --imagine that -- and a game with Houston loomed on the horizon.
We were planning a big Saturday. I had secured a handful of tickets and was taking my son, Jackson, and a couple of his buddies, Jon and Jeremy, to their first UGA game together. Was it really 10 years ago?
I suppose it was. All three have graduated from Georgia now, but none have left Athens. Jackson is in grad school, Jeremy is in law school and Jon teaches fourth grade at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary. I guess I raised them right.
It was about 9:15 and I was listening to Neal Boortz on WSB. Boortz was interrupted by breaking news that an airplane had flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. In my mind I saw a small plane, flying through the fog, clipping the building. I had heard all my life about planes hitting the Empire State Building.
But soon the voice on the radio, as if having read my mind, announced that skies were clear over New York City that day.
By the time I had dropped off my package it had been ascertained that the plane was an airliner. I don't remember how long it took for the media to confirm that it had been hijacked.
I still had 45 minutes before my next class started so I ran home to make sure my lovely wife, Lisa, was aware of what was happening. I found her staring at the television set. We sat and watched in disbelief as another plane hit the other tower. I was still at home, glued to the television, when the first tower fell.
Back at school our cable had been out for a few days, thanks to a construction mishap. As time approached for me to return to school I scooped up our 19-inch portable set and wrestled it into my car. I teach history. History was happening. We were going to watch it happen.
For the next hour my students and I sat and watched in horror as previously unimaginable events unfolded. My students had a lot more questions than I had answers. One of my students, Lee, wept as we watched the Pentagon smoldering. His father, Colonel Will Coleman, was assigned to the Pentagon. The soldier who shared his office was killed. A quick cell phone call to Lee's mother confirmed that Will Coleman was in Atlanta, in a meeting at Ft. McPherson.
Several of my fellow teachers came into my room and crowded around the television set. One, Diane Finley, was almost hysterical, because her son worked two blocks from the World Trade Center and we couldn't get a call through to his cell phone for hours.
My cohort, Jim Hauck, and I kept racing back and forth to each other's rooms to compare information. Jim teaches world history and votes Democrat. I teach U.S. history and don't -- but there were no political parties that day -- only Americans. Jim Hauck was the first person I heard voice what I had been thinking all morning -- that Osama bin Laden had to be the mastermind behind these despicable attacks.
It was a strange week and many of the images that burned themselves into our national psyche have been splashed across television screens all week -- the planes hitting the Twin Towers, the smoldering rubble of Flight 93, the prayer service at the National Cathedral, President Bush at Ground Zero, talking to the rescue workers through a bullhorn.
Many feelings from that week come flooding back, too. The eeriness of the empty skies overhead as all air traffic was grounded. The outrage and the grief and the anger and the feeling of unity that swept across the land. The resolve with which we, as a nation, squared our shoulders and vowed that we would not be defeated. We were determined to resume our daily routines as soon as possible and agreed that to do otherwise would mean that "the terrorists had won."
Today is a day for reflection. There will be other days for political debate. There will be other days for placing blame and assessing the right or wrong of our responses. Today is a day to remember 9/11 and tell our stories.
And, quite frankly, if we want to survive, we'd best not ever forget.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.