Where were you the morning of September 11, 2001? There are three indelible dates that bring vivid images to mind. One is September 11, another is November 22, 1963, and the last one is the Challenger explosion. These three dates in history had tremendous influence on all of us.
Television brought these events to life. They brought the horrific images into our homes. These images made each of these happenings intensely personal.
It has been nearly fifty years since the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, yet I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was in the elementary school that I attended as a child, but I was a student teacher. An announcement came over the loudspeaker that the president had been shot. We were dismissed to go home.
When the Challenger exploded I was once again in a classroom. This time I was the teacher. We were anxious for this lift-off since a fellow teacher had won a coveted spot to be on board. I was summoned into the hall where I was told of the explosion. It was up to me to make the announcement to the children.
By the time the Twin Towers were hit I was retired. My husband and I were babysitting for the youngest grandchild at the time. He was playing with his farm toys when the first plane hit. When the second one hit its mark we all knew this was no accident. The United States was under siege. The day was a scary one with details replaying all day long. I feared a higher death toll than eventually surfaced. It was nothing short of a miracle that as many workers made it out safely.
September 11 or 9/11 as it has become more commonly known is history to the group of youngsters passing through our schools at this point. Few of them were old enough to have vivid memories of their own.
As the education system deals with the 10th anniversary celebration there are bound to be questions. Teachers may have to go back further yet in history to get the point across about the significance of this date.
That brought to mind my own experience when the newspapers and news broadcasts reported on the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since it was history to the classroom of students that I was in, I had to go back to World War II for them to understand the significance of the moment.
I have been to Ground Zero. There was little to see when I visited other than the chain link fence that kept people out of the area. I am disappointed that I did not know at the time about the little chapel known as St. Paul's that became a gathering spot for survivors and family members. It would have been an interesting place to visit. Since the skyline of the area was an unfamiliar one to me at the time, the pictures I saw on the news filled my mind. I recall the plane striking the first tower and flames erupting high off the ground in the building. We knew some people would not make it to safety. I wondered what the school teachers were saying to their students.
Of course, for the families that lost loved ones the event was a personal tragedy, but it was also a tragedy for the nation as a whole. We lost a sense of innocence. We had been struck on our own soil for the first time in more years than any of us could remember. The country as a whole was the victim of terrorism. The tone that was set was a strong one. We would not be forced to compromise our way of life. We would present a united front. The last ten years have been a reaction to the suicide missions.
The churches were packed. People sought spiritual guidance. Many prayed for those trapped in the inferno as well as those risking their lives to save others. There was a spiritual renewal. What happened to that renewal? It has now been ten years and we are going about our business. The reverence that followed 9/11 is long forgotten. Churches are struggling. Families are ignoring their faith.
Professional sports are viewed every Sunday with hundreds of thousands in attendance. There is no time for faith. Even at the local level, the sports programs have taken over our Sundays. There is youth football and travel soccer. There is no day of rest. Most of the stores are open. People are out and about shopping, not after church, but when church is being held.
As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 rolls around we need to remember how we all felt on that fateful day. We need to remember the fear that was part of the day.
My heart goes out to all of those who were personally and tragically touched that day. Ordinary men and women stepped up in extraordinary ways. Some of them lost their lives trying to save others. Ten years cannot have erased the memory. For one group of families their grieving process is about to begin. The remains of loved ones held in several caskets will be laid to rest the day after the official remembrance. They can finally move on.
Our country needs to unite more than ever today. Our economic woes dictate that we all work together for the good of the country. Remember we are "one nation under God"; our forefathers did not make a mistake when they included those words in the pledge of allegiance. We are strong and with His help our problems can be resolved.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org