Ten days earlier had been our first day of school. At 8am I had opened my classroom door to a bunch of energetic nine-year-olds who quickly discovered the chocolate ladybugs I’d placed on each of their desks for good luck. By mid-morning, I’d led a discussion on classroom rules, helped them stow away school supplies, and taken them on a tour to see where the all-important bathrooms and water fountains were.
That is from Normal Service Will be Resumed, an article I wrote for the UK’s Times Educational Supplement about my 2001 class of NYC fourth graders’ first day of school, September 11th. Soon ladybugs started coming from all over the world and ever since they’ve been a theme for my classroom. The first anniversary was very tough (you can read something I wrote at the time here), but it does get better as time goes on.
15 years later there are several worthy new 9/11 books for children and young adults. Of the ones I’ve read it is Gail Polisner’s The Memory of Things that resonates most for me personally. She captures that eerie, heavy, time-standing-still, feeling I recall so vividly. (My goodreads review is here). In her Nerdy Book Club post of today she writes of how hard it was to get the book published. That some editors weren’t even able to read it. I suspect I wouldn’t have a few years ago, but as time goes on I’m able to handle a bit more and then a bit more of it. I admire Gail being able to write this book — while I’ve written about the day, I don’t think I could write a whole book. I’m struggling right now with a young college student (I believe she is from China so her view of 9/11 would be significantly different than someone in this country) who is doing a paper on teaching the day as history and wants to interview me. Her interest is in this as history, but it is still too raw and real for me to discuss it that way. But of course it is for young people and Gail has done a wonderful job providing a tight view of the day for someone their age.
Every day when I read of something dreadful happening — bombs, war, illness, famine, assault, and more — I consider how amazingly resilient we are as a species, able to move on and live our lives in full whatever the circumstances.