It had started as a normal school day. My students were coming into the class for homeroom and first period.
And my phone rang.
I had just gotten a cell phone, and my wife and I agreed to only use it for emergencies when we were working. And she was calling.
All my kids turned to look as I answered.
“Airplanes have just crashed into the World Trade Center,” she said. “They don't know who is behind it, but they think it's terrorist.”
In the next six hours, I watched my class shrink from 31 students to 11. Parents didn't know what was going on, so they came to get their children. Teachers had no idea what was going on. We had one television on each floor, and a teacher with six students had it all day.
I got my information from listening to the radio during my planning period and lunch, plus phone calls to my wife when I could.
My wife had told me one of the buildings had collapsed. I had a break during my second period, and I turned on the radio as the second building collapsed. I was thinking that, for some reason, they were replaying the first one. As I called Susan, she told me it was the second.
I had a feeling of total frustration that this was happening.
There were several teachers I'd talk to, giving information as soon as I heard it.
It was a surreal day.
One of my vivid memories was, while telling my students what I knew, I could hear two military jets flying very low and very fast. I knew the sound having been an air traffic controller in the Marine Corps. At the time, I heard that all air traffic was grounded, but there was one that had been over Cleveland and had turned toward Washington, DC. That turned out to be Flight 93.
The sound of those two aircraft had me worried. I found out years later they had been scrambled.
There was leadership shown. Our two political parties were united. People stepped up.
Another memory sticks out that was, well, interesting. School would be cancelled the next day, but the CEO of the District, Barbara Bird Bennett, sent out word that the administration building had been closed, but the schools were closed. She, the captain getting in the first lifeboat, was speaking from a secure location.
A few days later, I was standing with my two children on a playground close to our house. I heard something, and everyone looked at the sky. It was a commercial jet, the first since that awful day.
Life has changed for us, and in the past 20 years, there's been many changes.What had been a relatively safe world was now one of possible danger.
There was a time when a person could go to the airport 30 minutes before a flight. Today, the line for TSA can be long. Go to a place such as Orlando, and be prepared for a long wait.
Be prepared to take off your shoes and belt.
I once was pulled over so they could look at my carry-on bag. The agent started laughing because everything was rolled up tightly and packed neatly.
“You must have been in the military,” he said.
Sporting events such as baseball and football games have metal detectors. For pretty much everytime there is a crowd, there will be some sort of security.
It was an awful event. On Friday, I'm showing my class a National Geographic video about that day. My students this year were born almost 10 years after the event. They need to understand.
Let's hope it's something they'll never have to see.