Today is the fourth anniversary of the most horrific attack ever on United States soil. Last year, I posted the story of how I found out about 9-11 during my third year as creative writing teacher at Diamond Middle School. I have changed the number of years in the opening sentence and corrected one typo, but otherwise the post remains the same:
It seems hard to believe that four years have passed since Sept. 11, the day that stripped away Americans' sense of security in their sanctity of their own borders.
That was one of those days when I kept thinking about what I would do if I were still editor of The Carthage Press and having to direct the paper's coverage of that event. I can't remember any problems with the coverage offered by The Press, the Globe, or any of the other newspapers in this area. Probably the only different thing I would have done would have to been to write some columns to try to bring some perspective to the event.
As it was, I had the opportunity to bring perspective of the event to an entirely different group. At the time, I was in my third year of teaching a writing class in a small trailer located by the Marlin Pinnell Gymnasium on the Diamond school campus. The middle school secretary, Missy Snow, came to the trailer and told me that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center.
The television I had in my classroom was not very good, but it was better than most of the others in the middle school at that time. It only picked up one TV channel, KODE-TV, so the students and I watched, almost without words, as Peter Jennings anchored ABC's coverage of the most terrifying event to ever occur in the United States.
For some strange reason, the news department at Channel 12 had the horrible idea that the station needed to break away from ABC's coverage for about 10 minutes each hour to give local perspective. Unfortunately, the people they interviewed didn't provide much information and did little to help us understand what had happened.
However, those breaks gave me the opportunity to have discussions with my students and answer their questions to the best of my ability. I didn't know this until later but the elementary principal at Diamond had ordered that students not be told anything about the attack. Fortunately for the fifth graders in Chris Rakestraw's class on the other side of the trailer, he never received that order. He brought his kids into my classroom for a couple of hours to watch the coverage and to participate in our discussions.
The events of 9-11 have continued to provide fodder for many classroom discussions in the last three years. Students have talked about weighing civil rights against the need for greater security. We've talked about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, of course, we have talked about the students' personal feelings and how they dealt with news of 9-11.
Teachers across the United States played a huge role in the days after 9-11. The event helped make students understand the importance of history, a course some of them had never held in high esteem. It also provided opportunities for government teachers and for teachers of creative writing courses to help students understand what happened and to appreciate the way of life they have in these United States.
It seems hard to believe that this incident which invoked sympathy for the United States around the world and gave us our greatest opportunity to truly shape a new world has morphed into what it has become over the past four years.
Since that time, we have had a justified war in Afghanistan, an almost unexplainable war with Iraq that continues to cost American lives every day, and now this country is having a hard time dealing with the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina. When all is said and done, we will discover that the overriding emphasis on the war on terrorism and turning it into a war against evil people we don't like, led to the reduction of funding and capability to respond to disasters like Katrina. Manpower that could have helped save lives is overseas in Iraq, while even our mission in Afghanistan has suffered because of the unnecessary diversion of toppling Saddam Hussein.
Who would have ever thought any of those things could happen in the weeks after 9-11, when the world was unified in its condemnation of the horrible attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?