Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering Thousands

I had every intention of creating a blog entry about my first week of teaching in year three. The incredible week it has been, starting off courses using Smarter Science teaching strategies and watching my Grade 9 Academic and 10 Applied classes be engaged in the first week of Science - my gosh it has been amazing, and I am scared at the idea of keeping it up and making them better Scientists...keeping them interested or helping them find an interest they thought they had lost of never had. But today is September 11, 2011 - and that scares me more.

This weekend I have watched the Dateline special surrounding September 11, 2001 (where FDNY survivors and the families that passengers of UA flight 93 called that terrible day) and the made-for-TV-movie Flight 93. I will eventually watched the feature film United 93 (I taped it) as well. I often think to myself that time is a strange concept. We have this concrete idea of seconds, hours, days, and years...but when I really think about it, time is this subjective and relative concept that has a different meaning in every context. For instance, how 10 years have managed to pass since 4 planes were hijacked in the United States on the East coast. I was in my first week of Grade 11 that day. I was 16, and still didn't truly grasp what had happened.

This summer I had the opportunity to go to New York City for the first time in my life. I spent one afternoon taking a walk down to the World Financial Center (WFC) and Ground Zero with a friend. We went into the Winter Garden in the WFC where you can see over the fence that surrounds Ground Zero and took pictures. You can see where the World Trade Centers used to stand, where the reflecting ponds will be in working order, as of today, to commemorate all of the lives that were lost that day (over 3 000, including 343 FDNY personnel). From many angles we saw the Freedom Towers that are being built nearby - the new additions to the already gorgeous Manhattan skyline - incredible architecture in that city.

I am willing to bet that watching these specials and movies this weekend would have found me emotional regardless, but I believe that having been there made the connection that much stronger. At 16 I had nothing to relate to. I was not alive during WWII, none of my living family served in that war overseas (only in Canada) - yes I have heard first hand stories of survivors from the concentration camps in Europe, and yes I took Canadian History in Grade 10 and we learned a lot about WWI and WWII - I had no true concept as to what war was. I have seen footage of the WTCs falling, almost straight down, more times than I can count now. I have heard the story of a group of Ladder 6 firefighters who saved the life of an elderly woman, and only lived to tell the tale because somehow the staircase they were in was spared. I have heard the story of UA 93 through the eyes of the air traffic controllers and families and seen what was left of that plane after it crashed in a field because the passengers on the flight decided they were going to die anyway, and didn't want others to suffer with them. There was almost nothing left of that plane. It was traveling so quickly that it effectively disintegrated (along with the people on board) on impact.

So I think what I fear most about going to school on Monday, is trying to talk to my students about 9/11/01 and realizing that they were 4, 5 or 6 years old when it happened. And discovering that we already have another generation of kids who don't really get it, and maybe never will. But if I've learned anything in the years of my life, history tends to repeat itself. They will know despair, hatred, and intolerance one day. I only hope, that they have the role models now to show them how to grow, learn and make a difference. I only hope, that more of them become the heroes of tomorrow than become the bystanders of today.

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