A slight pause, and then, again, Code Red.
My third gradrs looked at me puzzled; this was something new. Something they'd never heard of...code orange? Yeah. But not code red.
Instinctively, I walked over, locked our door, all the while teaching. Not to worry, I told them. But my mind was reeling...I knew code red meant trouble, because this was a time period where we never practiced for this type of emergency with children present. It was thought that just the adults should know...we didn't want to worry our kids.
I could hear flurries of activity, and eventually, a volunteer, a mother I knew well, knocked. I opened the door a crack, and she whispered, "The Pentagon's been hit." I nodded, mind reeling...my husband worked there.
I smiled at the kids, and we continued our lesson.
Another knock, more whispering. By this times sirens wailed; I taught in the same community where the injured were being taken.
One class had been hustled inside; they were on the playground and the adults present could see the plane going down.
Volunteers came and went, children quietly being escorted to waiting parents at our office. Our population was largely military. Later, I would learn, a child I'd taught the previous year lost his father. My husband lost good friends. But at that moment, all I knew was to keep my "babies" calm.
Eventually we took the children into our cafeteria, and we told them what had happened. There was a moment of stillness, a collective gasp, and then we prayed. We reassured them the best we could. One child sat on my lap, and I rocked her. Her mom worked at the Pentagon as well.
I had no idea if Phil was okay, but the taking care of my "babies" kept me in motion. It was all so surreal. What do you do to keep everyone calm as children were constantly being shuffled off to waiting arms?
One son heard the news as he lined up his students for school photos. Another heard which side had been hit and breathed a sigh of relief. Little did he know his dad was in a meeting on the side where the plane came down. Later, my husband walked me to the spot where the plane had stopped. And, then he silently pointed to where he had sat in his meeting. The distance...too minimal, too close.
No one knew much; cell phones were useless and landlines overwhelmed. At some point, my door opened quietly and my husband walked in. We held each other quietly, rocked to and fro a bit, and then, back to my students. Phil had walked several miles to get to me. Our car was in a spot that had been roped off.
Finally, all my chicks had left. A good friend drove Phil and I home. We finally, hours later, could make contact with family.
So, today is a day for memories. I don't write this for sympathy. So many lost husbands, wives, friends. So many today are fighting their own worries, whether it be cancer, divorce, or going into war.
What stays with me, more than anything are the helpers, the ones from Mr. Roger's famous quotes.
I remember those who reached out to see what they could do for my little family. I remember the moms and dads in our halls that escorted children to and fro, all the while wondering about their own loved ones safety. I remember the nurses and doctors whoe worked ceaselessly those days...the firefighters who and coworkers who entered buring buildings to get others out.
I thought awhile about the picture that would go with this entry. I ended up choosing something simple, something that happens every day. Because this is the gift that all the helpers gave me that day...the gift of life, of hope, of normalcy. I am blessed.