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9/11 Remembered

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

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. What a position for you to be in. That day was so shocking and then to have young people to look after at the same time. Jonathan will grow up to be one wonderful, strong man.

  2. I can’t imagine another American asking ‘why’ you were crying – geez! I also can’t imagine being you in that classroom facing such young children with their questions. But I will say this Jonathan just has to be our President someday! What a bright young man. I know your heart smiled at that comment, even in such a dark time.

  3. Hi Quill, I remember it so well……i was in Effie, and i just sat there, I couldn’t take it in, it didn’t make sense, it still doesn’t make sense.

    i didn’t have anyone that I personally knew get killed either, but I still cried.

  4. Out of the mouths of babes…

    Being in Australia, most of us didn’t find out until Sept 12, first thing in the morning.

    I was prac teaching music at the time and didn’t really get a full comprehension of what had happened until later as it just seemed like a hoax. All I remember is my supervising teacher thought it would be a good opportunity to play “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” and discuss that with reference to what had happened.

    I didn’t cry, but I definitely felt numb.

  5. Thank you for this post. I was unable to express my feelings. Such a tragic loss of life. An awake call for our denial of issues of hatred and strife. I cried reading your post as I did the day it happened five years ago today.
    On a lighter note…I am having a terrible time leaving Bill a message. Can you please let him know I wish him well. Also, that leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best were my favorite shows. I wish that simplicity of life for each of us to enjoy!
    Have a blessed day…

  6. It was a sad day indeed. I was glued to my tv all day. I remember when not home and at my dentist, every tv in her office was on the New Channels. The thing I remember also was a total ban on Air Travel and for two days not one airplane left Calgary International. It was strange not hearing the planes take off. I can see and hear the planes take off and land as the airport isn’t that far from where I live. A day that changed the world forever.

  7. I was in the Netherlands on 9/11. I was in the house all by myself, and had no one there to help me understand what was happening. When B and my father came home, they had no idea that this had happened. We spent the day watching the news. The neighbors, most of whom we hadn’t met, came by to express their sadness. I will never forget sitting there by myself.

  8. I remember I was coming home from school in the late afternoon (I live in France)… And I heard the news on the radio in the car, and didn’t believe it was more than a hoax until I actually saw it on TV… I can barely believe it was 5 years ago already. It must have been so hard to have to tell the kids about it.
    I love that song, BTW… It really helps when I’m so sad thinking about it again.

  9. Loved Jonathan’s answer! I was teaching 6th grade at the time and we were instructed not to say anything at all to the kids. I’d watched the uncensored live attack just a few minutes before an entire class walked in. They knew something was wrong but I couldn’t say anything. The next day we all cried together, talked, made cards for the victims and I just listened to their fears.
    Interestingly, we were singing “Dona Nobis Pacem” (Peace On Earth) on September 11. I could barely control my emotions as I listened to their innocent, sweet voices singing unaware of what had happened. I remember thinking how I knew the world would change for them all too soon – their sense of safety would never be the same. I would like to go back to that one pure hour just before they knew – just one more time.
    Wouldn’t we all.

  10. Perhaps we should send Jonathan to advise the Bush Administration on how to handle this mess…even after 5 years, they STILL can’t resolve it!

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