I was turning into the parkinglot at work. The guy on the radio was hysterical and I was certain I misunderstood him. He screamed three times, “A plane has crashed into the Twin Towers! A plane has crashed into the Twin Towers! A plane has crashed into the Twin Towers!”
I got out of my car, went straight to my classroom and turned the television set on. I hadn’t misunderstood the man on the radio. I sat down on the edge of my desk and watched, and listened, and cried.
A teacher walked past, backed up, looked at me then rushed to my side. She demanded, “Are you alright?” In answer I pointed at the TV set. She put her arm around me and asked, “Do you have family in New York?” I shook my head and told her I didn’t. She stepped away from me, raised her hands in disgust and said, “Then why are you crying?” The only thing I could think to answer was, “Why aren’t you?”
Of course I had to pull it together for my students. An emergency teacher’s meeting was called and we were told we weren’t to make any personal statements until after the Principal addressed the school. The students realized from the way the grownups were acting that something horrible had happened but they didn’t know what. They were very quiet and subdued.
Finally the Principal’s voice piped into the room and she talked about the tradgety and the horror — but to the kids it was still just words. However, after her programmed “board of education approved” speech, she told the teachers to turn the television to the in-house channel and allow the kids to view the approved audio/visual clip.
It was actually the same clip all of America watched over and over again — nothing sanitized. Just before the video clip ended and the television screen went blue, the newscaster explained that the men who rammed the plane into the Towers did it because they thought God wanted them to.
My students were silent, still staring at the blue screen. Many of them were crying and holding each other’s hands. I knew questions would come. I wondered if I’d be able to answer them. Into this silence someone whispered, “Did he say those men thought God wanted this?” I answered — just as softly — “Yes. They believe they have to kill their enemies to earn their way into heaven.” And a young man named Jonathan replied loud, clear and matter-of-factly. “Well, they’ll be mightily surprised then when they wake up in hell.”
Casting Crowns: Praise You in This Storm