The morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up and prepared to meet my carpool ride with a fellow teacher. In my head, I was preparing for a day of teaching music: the fifth graders would be first. I would need to spend extra time helping my struggling little trumpet player today. I would have first graders just before lunch, and after lunch, the high school kids took all afternoon. Some learned guitar, and some were in choir, the last class of the day.
I stepped into Mrs. V's car, where the radio spilled out words.
"Sssh, there's something wrong."
We listened in uncertain silence as we drove through the naked, harvested wheat fields. Something was wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.
We got to the school and hurried inside. I found myself in the history teacher's classroom. A television showed live coverage of smoke. We saw a plane, and watched in horrified slow motion as it disappeared into the side of the second tower. We waited.
I didn't want to teach. Our world seemed to be falling apart, yet we felt insulated by the thousands of miles between us and what was happening. It didn't seem real.
The Principal called a hurried meeting and told us all to try to keep our schedules as normal as possible in order not to scare the children.
I taught my fifth-grade trumpet player. In a dream, I taught my first graders. Our world was never going to be the same, and yet the 28 innocent pairs of eyes still looked up at me, and still loved our games of music hide-and-seek.
My life did change that year. As if the falling of the Towers signaled the falling of my old life, I changed forever that year. Ten years later, I can look back and see that year as a blessing, but then, it felt like that day, numb and filled with smoke and fear and pretending everything was okay when it was actually crumbling into nothingness all around me.
Like our country, that was a time of pain, a time of humility, and a time of growing. It was a time of realizing I was not invincible, and that some things hurt too much to ever truly heal. At the same time, I learned to be strong. I learned to find courage in the midst of tragedy.
No, I won't ever forget that day.