It’s National Grandparents Day.
It’s also the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
And both these days resonate for me.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was teaching 8th grade Language Arts in South Orange, NJ when the principal made a vague announcement over the PA system. Rumors started and I tried calling my husband, who worked in New York City, using the classroom telephone. He told me what happened based on what he knew.
Eventually we found out more, and were asked to gather information from our students about where their parents worked and who might be home to collect them. The school emptied and staff who lived locally, including me, stayed with the students who couldn’t leave on their own. I focused on the tasks and the ambiguity of the news—we didn’t have televisions in the classrooms. I knew something terrible had occurred and worried about my husband getting home that night. (He worked mid-town and stayed in the city that night but his firm lost three employees.)
When I arrived home, I quickly learned that my neighbor didn’t return. He was in one of the towers. Neighbors mobilized with search teams and food brigades and later offered housing for relatives who came for his funeral. He left a wife and three children, all under 8 years old. We wallowed in grief for a young life lost too soon, for all the other lives, and for our nation.
In 2001, I was a mother of three school-aged children.
Now, in 2016, I’m a grandmother of seven. (#8 on the way).
Now I’m connected to the future in the most profound way and I worry about the world these children will inherit.
Teachers in classrooms across the country are grappling with ways to inform a new generation about 9/11. I hope they’re putting it in context, exploring the roots of terrorism yet sharing the values that make this country great: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and human rights. I want my grandchildren to know tolerance for all and understand peace is a process not a quick fix. I want them to have empathy for those that have little and want them to be stewards of the earth and all its people.
That future lies in our hands.