When Tragedy Becomes History

Oscar wasn’t alive on September 11, 2001. For him, it will always be a date in a history book, the way the attack on Pearl Harbor is to me. One day, he will come home and ask me, “Where were you when it happened? What were you doing?” the way I asked my parents about the Kennedy assassination.

Oscar doesn’t know about September 11. To him it is just another day. I will come home today and feed my son and know that he is still oblivious to the fact that there is evil in the world.

Oscar, this is where I was and what I was doing that day:

I went to school. I was an eighth grade teacher. My friend Diana came to my classroom and told me what happened, but we didn’t have access to television that day. My students were filled with questions, rumors were flying, and information was still uncertain. I felt very frustrated and helpless. The teachers told the principal, we need to all go home and watch television, this is history. He disagreed. I went back to my classroom and cried in front of my students. Then I read to them, from a book called Holes, because I couldn’t teach, and we all wanted to think about something else.

In between classes I went to the teacher’s lounge to use the phone (this was before everyone had cell phones) to call Darin. I just needed to hear his voice, to tell him what happened, because I knew he wouldn’t be watching television. Later, I finally got to go home, and I sat on the floor in Darin’s office, both of us glued to the television for the rest of the night.

I will always remember that day as so very real and unreal at the same time. It wasn’t possible, and yet there it was, again and again, on the television. My emotions that day were raw, and still seem real to me, as if it happened yesterday. It will never be history to me, but some day it will be a long time ago, and to Oscar it will be simply a collection of images and a story from his mother.

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