On September 11, 2001 I was a naive second grader.
I woke up that morning looking forward to a circus or carnival or something I was supposed to go to with my best friend in the evening.
As the school day progressed, a strange thing happened. Kids started getting picked up by parents left and right. All I thought was that it was odd that so many kids had doctors’ appointments on the same day. And all I hoped was that the friend with whom I was going to the circus didn’t have to go to the doctor too.
If my teacher knew about what was going on, she gave no indication of it. As far as I remember, other than many children leaving, everything was normal.
Finally, the familiar voice of our principal came over the loudspeaker dismissing us by bus. Once again, no indication of anything being amiss. As the principal called my bus, MR 3, I looked at my friend and smiled excitedly. Finally it was time for the carnival.
We both rode the same bus; we got on together. But obviously we didn’t sit together. She was a girl. If we sat next to each other, someone would tease us…and in the second grade, that was the end of the world. So I strolled to the end of the bus and tried to find a seat where all the cool kids were sitting. Because that was the only thing that mattered in the second grade.
We soon pulled into my neighborhood and I got off of the bus and ran inside. “Dad, Mom, what time do we have to go?”. My parents simply said that it had been cancelled, and for a brief moment I felt as if tragedy had struck. Dejected, I turned my attention to the television that had been on this whole time.
Up until that point, I had no idea that some people had crashed planes into buildings 36.2 miles away from where I was standing. Needless to say, it didn’t make any sense to me.
In the days after 9/11, it felt as if everything had changed. The next day during PE, our teacher locked the door that was normally left open for air to come in. He told us to be aware of suspicious threats. The way he said it made us almost afraid of going out to the monkey bars or the blacktop. A few days later we practiced lock down drills, so that we would be prepared if someone bad was nearby. There was a distinct feeling of uneasiness that loomed over my school for a long time.
A lot has been said about whether we are safer now than we were then, and I’m not going to talk about that. But what I will say is that that day robbed us, at least for a while, of the carefree naivete that is such an integral characteristic of any second grade class. Before 9/11, I don’t think I had ever even heard the term “terrorism”, but after 9/11 it became one of the most common words that came from the television.