Remembering September 11

Like most Americans, I will never forget, or even be able to forget if I wanted to, September 11, 2001.

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It was a Tuesday.

It was my first year of teaching. I had 2nd graders. And I would teach 2nd graders for the next 14 years of my life.

It was “Fall” so I wore a purple wool sweater with khaki pants my sister gave me to school. I was overheating by day’s end.

We had a staff meeting that morning.

The morning with the kids went by as it always does.

And then I went to lunch.

As I walked by a colleague’s classroom, on my way to the teacher’s room to eat, I saw her staring at the TV she’d pulled out and turned on. She was crying. I saw an explosion on the screen.

That was how I found out about September 11. Even though we weren’t calling it that at that moment.

The rest of the day was quiet. I taught in elementary school so obviously there was no discussion about it. We played math games and read books.

And when the last bus left the parking lot, I threw my bag in my car and went home. That’s what our Principal said to do. Go home. Be with your families.

The radio stations were all-talk, no music.

The world around me seemed … still.

I got home and ran through the front door. Husband was already there. He had seen the 2nd tower hit on live TV. We sat, glued to the TV, for the rest of the night.

The following days were hard. My brain could not process this horror.

For the last 15 years, September 11 has been haunting. I have thought about it often. I have even dreamt about it. I hear planes close by and I look up. I think of 9/11.

I wasn’t there with Them. I did not hear it, see it, smell it, feel it. Not like They did. I was lucky.

And, I didn’t know anyone involved, so I didn’t lose anyone. I was really lucky.

But like most people, I know people who lost people. That can’t be avoided. That’s how huge the loss was. When compared to other mass tragedies, September 11 is small. Not to me. Not to our country. Not to the families who lost loved ones that day.

Last year, I was home sick on September 11. I had a cold. My first cold ever in September. Remembering it was September 11, I decided to tune in to TV. I never want to forget the tragedy of this day, so every year I try and watch something, read something, acknowledge it. This day, I watched a lot of interviews with people who experienced the day, who helped, who lost. I listened intently to their stories.

I started to wonder, what has been written about September 11? I have watched plenty of things, and seen some movies, but I have never read a book on the subject, other than Lisa Beamer’s Let’s Roll which was written very early on (and which I recommend).

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What about the people who survived that day, who helped that day? What about the people who died, who left so many loved ones behind? Their families? I wanted to know about those people.

I started with my library. I read two books that I just devoured.

And then I searched for more.

I came up with this one, ordered and received from Amazon, that was … life changing.

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It helped me to understand why I felt so affected by September 11, despite knowing no one who died that day, despite not living near NYC. I was identified as being an ONLOOKER in the Zone of Sadness #4. I had unlimited access to the events of the day because this was the first event in our history that was recorded as it happened. For me, and others in Zone #4, it was like the same events just occurred over and over and over in front of me, but without being touched by them; in fact, being numbed by them and unable to really grasp the tragedy of the events, the trauma. It was  much easier to feel emotions such as sadness and anger because I was so removed from the day’s reality. It was in reading this particular book that I realized, I don’t really want to remember this day because of the murderous events, the horror, the depravity. I want to remember what this day meant to our United States of America and all of the people living here. I wanted to remember the people of this day, the survivors, those lost, those left behind.

Today marks the 15th annivrsary of September 11. My second graders are now 22 and 23 years old. Some have graduated college. Some have their own children. A lot of time has passed. I am married now, I have my own house, I have my own children.

And I still have not forgotten.

Today, I talked with Girlfriend about 9/11. She heard about it last year when her teacher read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.

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She had questions last year, but I felt she was still too young. I knew it was coming though. So this year, I asked her, Do you want to talk about September 11? She wanted to.

We watched an alarming but suitable video for an 8 year old girl who understands things differently than most 3rd graders. We talked about why and how. We focused on the helpers of that day. We talked about the people. All the people. We watched a video of the 9/11 Memorial. She hopes to see it someday. I hope I can make that happen.

Here we are. 15 years later.

September 11, 2001. A day to remember in our hearts.

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The Time Is Now.

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I’ve been back at work – real work – the work I do in my classroom, with colleagues, with kids – for about three weeks.

In these 4 days, I’ve learned been reminded that it does not matter how diligently I plan my lessons.  They are going to change and it’s going to be fine because I know how to handle such situations. I’ve been handling such situations with more and more ease over the last 15 years. I would like it better if things went according to my precise planning, but really. I don’t live in a fantasy world. Constant change is an occupational hazard in my profession. Take today, for example. I had to skip over something, re-arrange something else, and move a 3rd plan to an entirely different day. Admittedly, I had a little psychosomatic angina over the whole thing. But, I didn’t die. The kids were fine. Things got done. There’s tomorrow, too.

I’ve learned been reminded that however long I spend thinking out a plan to maximize my time each day, I am going to do what feels natural at the time. Take today, for example. If I told you how many weeks I’ve spent thinking about the best way to pick up Monkey and Girlfriend and get us all home at a reasonable hour in the late afternoon, you would think me nuts. Yep, I spent that much time considering the various routes I could take, shouldn’t take, probably would take. And today, with very little thought, I just went with the one I felt like. I got to where I needed to be in plenty of time and we were home before 5. I’m so glad I spent my many days thinking so hard about that best travel route!

I used up way too much mental energy between May and August, envisioning the set-up to my new classroom, drawing it out in a map, changing it around, only to have the final layout look nothing like what I thought it would. How often has that happened? Very often!

I’m a worrier. Not a planner. A worrier. And in my worry, I plan and plan and plan. And then when the 11th hour strikes, I do what I want to do, what I can do, what I have to do. A lot of times, I follow the plan. Sometimes, I don’t because I can’t, or something better pops up. But it always works out. Always.

The reality is, I need to trust myself more.

When am I ever going to learn that while it’s good to have a plan, and write things down, and be prepared, it is absolutely no good to toil over those plans because they can change, they will change, they do change, and I know it?

Now.

The time is now.

 

Leaving Summer Behind

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Soon, we will say goodbye to summer.For me, school has started. For Girlfriend, school will start after Labor Day (as it should). With Labor Day Weekend just a day away, I am mournful but also … happy.

We have one last weekend to enjoy all that summer offers: the time to slow way down, the simplicity of just being at home with family, enjoying the backyard, and the knowledge that there’s no where we have to be.

Once this weekend has ended, it will still be summer on the calendar but in my mind and heart, Summer 2016 will be over. And we will welcome Fall.

I’m going to miss this summer. I’m going to miss the days that just lay ahead of us, plans being whatever we wanted them to be. I’m going to miss our trips to the beach, the hard-earned vacation we took down in Massachusetts where we met some new friends. I’m going to miss waking up when my kids did, not to the unwelcome blare of the alarm clock.

I’m going to remember our trips to the library on hot days, our stops to get iced coffees and cookies, our adventures driving through unknown local neighborhoods as we enjoyed our treats and listened to Raffi Radio.

I’m going to eat with gratitude those last delicious tomatoes from G and P’s garden.

It’s hard to leave summer behind.

But summer is a loyal friend who returns always. We will get her back in 2017.

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books According to My Toddler

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I love this top ten post initiated by Unleashing Readers!  Monkey loves to read and at even though he’s barely 18 months, he definitely has his favorites!

Currently, his top ten are:

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He loves the playfulness of the song tune, “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” as well as the colorful pictures. He enjoys pointing to the pumpkins and the little witch!

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This one never seems to get old!  We sing it with or without the book. The book has beautiful illustrations.

Karen Katz never disappoints. He LOVES lifting the flaps in these three books.

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The colors in this one are so engaging! I love the counting, too.

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Another lift-the-flap book, plus you can’t beat the crinkly sounds of the flaps!

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A classic song in a sweetly illustrated book. We sing this one over, and over, and over, and over … you get the idea.

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Who wouldn’t love this adorable bunny Nicholas?!

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This is an oldie I bought in a grocery store years ago when Girlfriend was still a baby. It’s nothing special, but Monkey LOVES it!

#TMILMT – The Moment I Loved Most Today

I’ve been teaching for 15 years. This year marks my 16th year. In all that time, I’ve never once received flowers at work from Husband. Till the first day of first grade.

I was a little overwhelmed and a little downhearted because nothing was coming naturally to me as it had for so long. I knew these feelings would pass. But in the moment, they were heavy. I loved my new room, I loved my new class, I loved that I was here in first grade. I was confident every day would be a little easier. But right now, my heart felt heavy.

And then the flowers from Husband arrived. It is amazing what a little love can do.

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This is the problem.

We – a collective we – try to teach our children to be kind, respectful to themselves and others, tolerant, hard-working, humble, and honest. We try really hard. It’s not easy in the world we’re raising them in. There is so much adversity to our achievement of this goal whether it’s on TV or in the news or right in our own neighborhoods because we know it’s true: not everyone cares about raising children to be kind, compassionate, sensitive, loving, responsible, resilient, successful human beings. I know it. You know it.

And there are people who just think they are hilarious and can do and say what they want. Well, yes, this is America and we have the freedom of speech. But freedom of certain speech certainly does not need to be promoted. Particularly when it involves children.

Take this guy. And his “children’s” book.

Girlfriend and I were in a local bookstore this morning to purchase some horse books as a gift to her friend for her birthday. We arrived at the checkout counter and this book was proudly displayed on top of a stack of about 12 (yep, I counted).

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I said, “What is this?” And out of sheer curiosity, I opened it, thinking it was going to be pro-Trump (because clearly that unflattering cover illustration didn’t give it away). It was anti-trump. Good. We aren’t voting for him. I don’t know how a positive book could be written about him. That being said, we do not speak hatefully about him to our children nor do we make fun of him (well, okay, sometimes Monkey makes his “Trump Face” – you know … the one w/ the lips like an O? – but that’s the extent of the mocking).

What I read was appalling. It was nothing short of prose trying to be funny but failing miserably because all this author did was make fun of Trump: his looks, his clothes, his personality. And the word “crap” was used.

The author, in the article linked above, written by Matt Wilstein  over at The Daily Beast, claims this isn’t REALLY a children’s book. I say, No? Then why is it titled, A Child’s First Book of Trump? It was written with the intention that adults would read it, find it funny, buy it, and he would make a load of money off it. And hey, if kids read it, great … he thinks they will find it funny too, and hopefully won’t be afraid.  ?!?!?!?!

“As for the book’s intended audience, Black admits that it is targeted at adults, not children, much in same vein as recent faux-children’s books like Go the Fuck to Sleep and Stephen Colbert’s I Am a Pole (And So Can You!). “It actually is a book that parents could read to their children,” he says. “If the kids know nothing about Trump and politics, they would still find it funny.” But, he adds, “I’m hoping they’re not terrified by it.” However, as much as Black is secretly hoping Trump’s success brings him more readers, he says he is “utterly distraught” over the possibility of a Trump presidency. .. Even if it would be great for book sales.”

This author, Ian Michael Black, is extremely intelligent, he writes well, I agree with his politics. He often makes me laugh. And he has two children. I have nothing against him. But, this book? It’s just mean. It isn’t educational. If I want to have a conversation with my children about why Trump is 100% unfit to run our country, about why he is not a good person, I would not use this book to do it. This book does nothing but make fun of Trump, in the hopes of making money. Trump makes fun of others and uses his money to get as much recognition as he can. How are these two men different in this vein?

They are not. They are exactly the same. And the problem is, the reality is, we want to teach our children to have morals and integrity, but we are continually challenged in trying our darndest to do so. Even in the book store! The message clearly is that it’s okay to make fun of Trump because he’s a jerk.

But, no. It isn’t. My children deserve an intelligent explanation about why this man is the poorest choice for a President rather than a book that does nothing but mock another person.

Can’t people just be nice? How are we supposed to teach our children to be nice when everywhere, people are not nice?

I was disappointed that our local bookstore was carrying this book and promoting its mocking. I said as much. I was answered by having my bag of books literally dropped on the counter as the owner of the place turned her back on us. No “Thank you for your purchase,” “Enjoy the day,” nothing. Just the owner turning her back on us.

She obviously likes the book.