I'm sure we all remember where we were that day. I was at school, getting ready for the children to arrive. That year, my grade level was in the portable buildings. I often had my radio on, usually on NPR, or a local talk radio show. That morning, it was NPR.
At first, I wasn't really sure what I was hearing. As I listened, they discussed a plane crash into one of the World Trade Center buildings. At the time, no one knew if it were an accident, or a terrorist attack. I didn't think it was an accident.
I remember running across the deck to the classroom across the way, I knew there was one teacher there at school as early as I. When I told her what was going on, she didn't believe me. The second plane hadn't yet hit the second tower. I went back to my classroom.
In moments she was at my door, and with a shocked expression we shared, we listened as the second plane hit.
All through that day, I snuck peeks at the news via the news channel websites. All of the staff kept very quiet about what was happening, not knowing exactly what to say to the students. We were quietly briefed that afternoon, as to what we were to tell the students. The children were quiet that day. They knew something had happened, just not what.
Some very bad people had done a very bad thing in a place called New York. (First graders are often just becoming clear on the notion that the world is larger than their own city) I showed them where New York was in relation to where we were. I couldn't go into further details, as I didn't have them, nor was it recommended that I do so. The district's opinion was that it was the parents' place to tell their children what they wanted them to know. I think, had I been a parent, I would have agreed.
The next day, some of the parents had told, or allowed their children to watch the news in it's entirety. Some didn't come to school at all. Again, we were briefed as to what we were allowed to discuss and how. Mostly, we reassured the children again and again, that we were safe, hoping that we were telling the truth. None of us felt particularly in danger, but none of us felt safe either. When we went outside for recess, the empty sky was a little eerie. You see, the school I worked at was under the flight path for the Bush Intercontinental Airport. We usually saw several airplanes a recess period crossing from east to west and from west to east.
This year, teachers have had to explain another disaster, this one not man-made but larger in scope, though perhaps not larger in impact. We lost people and some buildings and a very large amount of our confidence and innocence that day and some things that shouldn't have happened, did. In some ways, the hurricane took lives (more or less, we're not sure yet), more buildings, over a larger area, and some things that should have happended didn't.
I suspect it was a little easier for those in Houston and surrounding Texas communities to talk to their classes, as we could point to things "we" were doing to help others. I know most schools had fund drives, donation drives and other projects designed to help the people sheltering in our city, county, state...and in some cases, homes. It has probably helped that there hasn't been another hurricane in the Gulf in this last week. I suspect had Ophelia gone west instead of north, it would have been difficult indeed to not be very afraid.
As the largest shelters in Houston are becoming less crowded, as so many, many donations have been received from all over the country ....and all over the world.... some normalcy is returning. Now, it will be a time of reflections, recriminations and rebuilding. It seems a lot of our neighbors from Louisiana have decided to make Texas their home. They are welcome.
We have friends and neighbors from all over the world. I am a little ashamed that I was not sure that anyone outside of the U.S. would offer help. I have never been so thankful to be so wrong. There is more than enough to do for all. Could the U.S. have done all that needs to be done by itself? I don't know. I'm glad we don't have to find out.
I haven't found a shelter yet at which I can volunteer. I had hoped to be a part of a team of people going into the Astrodome and Reliant Center to help tutor and care for the children. The fact is, I can't even walk far enough to get into the 'dome from the parking lot. I hate feeling so helpless. All we can do is donate money.
I am looking for any teacher here in Houston or the surrounding area who may have lost all her (or his) teaching supplies. I have a large storage unit full of children's books and manipulatives. In twenty years, one collects quite a few things. Especially if one is (and comes from a long line of) a packrat. I have the name of a school in Houston that might need my stuff. I'll be calling them on Monday.
Nothing new in my garden, except a rather wonderful visit from a tiger swallowtail. It was HUGE, and floated across my back yard and over the fence before I could get my camera in the right position to photograph it. Maybe I'll get lucky tomorrow. I should have some more pictures by Tuesday. I'll finally have some time off during the day, and I'll stalk the several kinds of butterflies I've spotted, and I may get a tomato plant or two into a pot and out of the sunroom. Though...they seem rather happy there. I've got a little tomato on one bush, and the cucumber transplants are growing and have bloomed.
Life goes on. Sometimes in surprising directions.