I don't generally feel the need to commemorate September 11. But it's inevitable that it brings up memories. We can all remember where we were and what we were doing on that fateful day. I was teaching seventh grade that year and a week away from major surgery on my neck. I remember sitting in the classroom -- we were doing practice testing that day -- as another teacher came in to tell me that a plane had hit one of the Trade Center Towers. A horrific accident, it must've been. Until the news came of the second plane, and, later, the Pentagon and the crash in Shanksville, Pa.
I remember watching my kids taking their tests and thinking how their world was about to change, how they hung in blissful ignorance for just a little longer than the rest of us. Then the calls started to come to the classroom from the main office, "Can you send Nathan to the office, his mother is here to pick him up?" "Layla's dad is here to get her." "Please have Carlos get his things and come to the office to go home for the day." Slowly the students trickled out of class, confused and confusing those left behind.
Later on, in the hallway, one student's parent, a woman from another country, had arrived to pick up her son. As they were leaving, he asked what was going on and her reply was, "We have to go home. They're bombing here like they did in our country." I don't think it hit me until that moment just how horrible this had become -- and how all too commonplace it was for some. That was the moment that my heart broke for the country we had been, and in a moment that day, the country we had become.
In the following days, we saw the reawakening of the American spirit. Without question, people streamed to the disaster areas wanting -- needing -- to help. Blood donations were at a record high. Everyone wanted to do something. Anything. We were down, but not out. The American spirit was -- and is -- still strong. And that is what I remember when I think of that day -- the strength of our country's spirit. When it didn't matter your ethnic background, politics, color, religion, or beliefs . . . because we were all American. We are all American -- and it did not break us.