One of the PE teachers was walking with me down the hall and told me there had been some plane crashes and bomb or something at the Pentagon.
Time stood still as her words sunk in.
"A bomb or something at the Pentagon."
I remember stopping and looking at her and saying, "Dan works at the Pentagon."
Dan. My uncle.
Her eyes grew as big as saucers.
I quickly ran to the telephone in my office (yes, I was so spoiled back then with an office) and called my mom as a 3rd grade class filed into my room. I quickly told my mom what was happening and asked her to get up with my aunt.
I remember walking back into the room and looking at the students. Their faces. They were so young and had no idea that the world was changing right outside of their classrooms. They had no idea that the next day so many of their parents (as we were in a military town) would be put on alert or shipped out to assist in the cleanup, rescue, or protect the different military interests. They had no idea that when we left the school that afternoon that policemen would be outside on guard as they loaded into their cars and buses.
How do you tell children that their world isn't safe? How do you tell them that bad things can happen to good people? How do you tell them what's going on when you really have no idea?
How do you hold it together?
I remember finding out that Dan was ok. I remember crying and being so overwhelmed with relief and gratitude and sadness for so many others who would not be as fortunate.
Chris came by my school at the end of the day. We were dating at the time and we went to my house after school to watch the news. We watched and watched and watched.
This was my generation's Pearl Harbor or JFK assassination.
The next day we did the same thing. The same terrible images. The same terrible numbers of deaths and missing. Each day I would watch hoping for good news. That they had caught the person responsible. That it wasn't as bad as it seemed. That we weren't as vulnerable. That we weren't in danger anymore.
That life was happy and we were safe because we were Americans.
I wanted normal back.
There is a new normal now. With background checks, heightened security, and scrolling news on the bottom of the screen. Life has resumed, but we will never be the same.
Thank you to those who have served, and to those who continue to serve our country. We deeply appreciate your sacrifices for our country and our freedom.
I will never forget.