Where was I on 9/11?

-By Corey Moses, First Vice President, Hartford Federation of Teachers, and Stuart Beckford, Second Vice President, Hartford Federation of Teachers. 

It was a grey and cool Tuesday in Southwick, MA. I recall turning on the news as I prepared for work. I had just started and was in my second week of teaching. And to my horror, I witnessed the first plane hit the World Trade Center Tower. I developed a pit in my stomach and called into work and asked what we should do.  At that point, the second plane hit the other Twin Tower.  I recall the admin saying that we needed to provide our students with a sense of normalcy and that there would be no delays or cancellation of school. Still, we needed to maintain and show a stiff upper lip while providing our students a sense of security and assuring them that they would be okay. 

Fast forward 20 years later.  As educators, we have faced many challenging times: the 2008 economic downturn and the most recent covid-19 pandemic ravaged our nation and economy. Not to mention created another opportunity Gap bubble for our students to overcome. In each instance, it is the space schools provide to restore a sense of normalcy. Our work in educating our students and forging relationships with their families and the community has strengthened my resolve as an educator. Not only do we offer a safe haven, but we also provide critical care and service for our society. Educators are on the frontlines of every classroom in every school to offer our children the space to feel secure. Our schools are staffed by teachers who are willing to make the personal sacrifice to provide that sense of belonging and security to each and every one of our students.

For myself, it was the middle of the first period, my second year of teaching. I was teaching about the factors that led to World War 1. My childhood history teacher ran to my classroom and told me to turn on the tv. I stared in shock as I saw the first tower go down. My ninth graders couldn’t understand that they were watching the news and not a movie. For a moment, I thought, what do I tell my children?! Down the hall, I heard a shrill scream followed by the strangled cries of my fellow teacher, who ran from her classroom and fell to the ground. Amidst her gasping for breath and tears streaming down her face, she let out a sob, “My brother is gone; I can’t believe he is gone.” At that moment, my world went silent; I had to find where I was. 

In a moment, all the sounds and sights came rushing back to me, and I felt a familiar adrenaline rush. The reality struck me that our students need cornerstones in their lives. They would need people who would guide them on the road of life, feelings, loss, acceptance, and finally victory. Our children that we serve daily learn through experience and trial sometimes to be victorious and become individuals. As educators, we take on that role of guiding and facilitating.  The children from 2001 to 2021 have been through a myriad of tribulations, often daunting, but they’ve overcome. I’m sad for what happened that day, but I’m proud of what our students have accomplished. We, as educators, have the opportunity to be that driving force for each of our charges. All gave some, but some gave all.