Thursday, September 11, 2008

seeing 9.11 through different eyes

9.11 is a completely different conversation out here. as it should be.

in the middle of a class this morning, the intercom began playing music. it was a black man singing about freedom and the like. the faculty member came on to say that we were taking a moment for 9.11 and the over 3000 lives lost, and then he mentioned a man of their own, scott powell, who attended Duke Ellington with his twin brother and was a great musician and family was so close to home for me, and felt so personal suddenly, and i wasn't even here.

after the moment of silence, we paused in our discussion of tattoos
(yes, in this "art & culture" class, the students are designing their own tattoos and learning the culture and significance behind them. she was just telling us about how her son came home yesterday from a trip with a tattoo on his elbow and it is a skull w/ crossbones. she was terrified. that only could be the result of having oops! burp rags as a baby...) and we discussed where we were. these kids were in the 5th grade.
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i was a junior. i woke up to the sound of the news in the family room where my dad was standing with a face i won't soon forget. his hand was on his face in concern and i stood next to him as we watched the first tower fall. i will admit, i hardly knew what that meant or even that it was an act of terrorism. the screen said it, but that flew right through me.

when i got to the classroom—sue scott's english class—the tv was on and there was a similar sense of fear in the room as we watched the second tower fall and heard of the pentagon as well. it is interesting how far removed we were on the west side and yet how conflicted i remember feeling. what was going to happen now? if dropping a bomb can end a war, what will dropping the world trade center do?
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my mentor in the classroom today continued about how she was working near the white house—an obvious hot spot—and when they got to work on 9.11, everyone was on their phones and computers just waiting for the go-ahead to evacuate—sure that they would. eventually, after calls every two minutes from her sobbing sister telling her to leave immediately, they were ushered out. she explained the scene like a montage in a movie, where everything moves in slow motion in the middle of a crisis. everyone was literally walking away from the city, afraid to get under the buildings to get their cars, and they certainly wouldn't take the metros in a red alert situation. everyone was on the phone just wandering. tons of people everywhere. she knew a guy that walked miles and miles that day just to get out because they were afraid to do anything else.

when she got home, it was minutes before her little 5th grader arrived from the bus that had sent all the kids home. her daughter was sobbing uncontrollably because they didn't tell her what was going on—they just packed em on the bus to go home. mrs. tia (my mentor. AKA "mama tia"—real name: Tia Harris) explained how torn she felt that she didn't know how or what to say to try to explain it to her... her husband came home at the end of the day and sat down to eat saying, "crazy stuff, huh?" and that was all that was said about that.

what we remember as a terrifying day in history and for the country and for those people who died was a very real moment of unforgettable, real fear for many of the residents here.

i'm a west coast girl in an east coast world for sure.


  1. meant to, sorry! (i couldn't view all the pictures when i was at school and i wanted the right one... awesome. truly awesome.)

  2. MEG! this post was both humorous and enlightening. My favorite line was, "it was a black man singing about freedom and the like" If you wrote a book, I would read maybe you should think about that.