I was 28 years old, in my second year of teaching music at Robertson Elementary School. In a way, our campus was “mourning” already because the move of our beloved principal to another campus. We were slowly getting accustomed to this new principal and working hard to give him an opportunity to be a different leader than we were used to.
I don’t remember a lot of details about first thing that morning, it was just like any other. I started the day with my planning time while classroom teachers started their day in their regular routines with students. I walked to the door of my classroom to welcome a 3rd grade class to music a few minutes early so I could chat with my classroom neighbor Cheryl while she got her day started.
This was an era in which we had TVs and VCRs in all our classrooms with (limited) cable TV connected. The TVs in our (Cheryl and my) wing were rarely on so when I got to the hallway and saw her intensely watching something that looked like a movie on her TV, I was thrown. I remember asking her, “what are you watching? Is this a movie?” when the second plane hit the World Trade Center Tower 1.
Here comes the class that I need to teach music to, walking down the hallway and the world is literally changing before my eyes on this broadcast I’m watching over Cheryl’s shoulder. Everything from that moment on is in my memory in segments or short phrases, but I can’t remember exactly what order anything happened in.
- I remember going to my computer to check my email to figure out how we were going to be asked to handle this situation.
- I remember trying to search and find out how I can get updates on the situation. (this was before smart phones and instant notifications)
- I remember hearing that the Pentagon had also been hit and worrying for my oldest friend Tiger, who was living in DC at the time. I think I tried to call him but phone lines in DC were all busy and I couldn’t get a hold of him right away.
- I remember Tina, a kindergarten teacher, learned a friend she had just reconnected with was on one of the flights that went down that day. She and her friend hadn’t seen each other in many years before that summer and now her friend was gone.
- I remember Kay’s son Michael was in the Pentagon that morning and for a bit, Kay couldn’t get ahold of him (phone calls into DC were difficult to connect through).
- I remember being told by RRISD to turn off the TVs in classrooms and to not talk to students about this incident until we knew more and feeling both relieved and frustrated. I was still a brand new teacher and having the responsibility of knowing what to say to not overly upset these young children was such a relief. On the flip side, there was a sense to me that it wasn’t fair to keep them unaware of history in the making. It was a teaching moment and even being just a music teacher, I wanted to take hold of it. Still, I did as I was asked and kept the news to myself and taught whatever lesson I had in store for that day.
- I remember being told that our neck of the woods could possibly be a target with the large campuses of Dell Computers and the Dell Diamond nearby.
For several days, all I watched on TV at home was news about the events of that day. It was all that was on. Watching it everyday caused me to feel my first bout of major anxiety and after about two days of it, I had to just turn it off. No new information was coming and reliving what I saw on TV that morning all the time was not good for my mental health. The first non-tragic thing I saw on TV was David Letterman and his iconic monologue on 9/17. Was it really only 6 days later?? I remember it feeling like it was WEEKS or MONTHS later.
Now, I’m 48 and the events of that day feels like it was just a few years ago. There are memories from that time that are just frozen in time. I don’t think anyone I worked with at Robertson is still there. Several friends (including Kay and her son Michael) have since passed away. I’ve taught in several other grade levels and areas of Texas. I’ve gotten a masters degree, started a second as well as a doctorate. I now teach band back in Round Rock ISD and am working towards a move into Central Administration. The kids we taught were between the ages of 5 and 10 at the time. That makes them between 25-30 now. Wow! I’m so glad to have taught at Robertson with THOSE colleagues 20 years ago. I’m not sure I would have experienced that whole time in the same way. I’m not even sure I would have stayed teaching if it hadn’t been for the love and support we all gave each other there. I’m so grateful for them!