First Day of School
"No kidding - I'm so glad I've got my Timmy's with me!"
8:15am, September 11th, 2001
Ayse and I met in the cafeteria at Laurentian University on our way to our very first class of our last year of university. We had Systems and Theories of Psychology at 8:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and were badly in need of our extra large double-doubles. Sipping coffee, we weaved through students, grinning at the freshman who made their wide-eyed and tentative way through the long corridors towards their first classes.
"I can't believe it's our last year of undergrad! Just think - next year we might be doing Master's program somewhere."
"I know! I already have ideas for my thesis too - just not sure which one I want to pick yet."
We continued down the hallway and into the classroom with it's long desks and over-bright lights, chatting about school and saying hello to friends from our program.
Since it was the first day of classes, we expected things to be fairly brief, as most professors would introduce themselves and the course, then give out the syllabus, tell us what textbook to buy, and any other information we might need to know, then send us on our way. This particular professor looked like an aging hippie, loved to talk about hockey (which I thought was great), has two PhDs, and seemed just off-the-wall enough to entertain us twice a week for an hour and a half, starting at 8:30am. After 15 minutes, we were leaving the classroom with papers in hand.
"I've gotta head out to the pet store for cat food - want to come with?"
Traffic was pretty heavy in Sudbury that morning, but we were in high spirits and didn't notice as we sang along with the radio and planned the rest of the day.
Then the radio announcers came on...
"And as we've been reporting all morning, it has been confirmed that a plane has run into on of the Twin Towers in New York City this morning. We don't have many details right now, but please keep tuned in and we'll let you all know as soon as we learn more".
We look at each other in surprise.
"Um. A PLANE?! What the hell?! Okay - honestly? How do you hit a building with a PLANE?! That's crazy!"
We had no idea what was going on... well not until we walked into the pet store.
This particular pet store has a very friendly atmosphere, and a little TV in the waiting room that people watch while waiting for their appointments. That morning, there was a crowd of people in the room (which in itself was unusual) all staring intently at the TV.
Then we saw it.
The sight that every person in North America and most of the world knows so well: a plane coming out of nowhere and slamming into one of the twin towers. CNN was reporting live and discussing the first plane and what had happened, when somebody yelled "Oh MY GOD!"
A second plane seemed to come out of nowhere.
I remember the crowd of people in the little pet store gripping each other's arms and sobbing "what the HELL is going on!?" as we watched the second plane end it's journey by crashing into the second tower.
We thought it was World War Three... it was like watching a movie over and over again, hoping for the ending to come where somebody would fix everything or that it was all just a dream.
The shock never did wear off - I kept seeing the planes over and over again, and become increasingly numb and horrified as we continued to watch the CNN coverage through the morning.
Ayse got frustrated quickly and refused to watch anymore about what was happening, but I couldn't help myself - it was like I HAD to see it, HAD to watch it, relive it, as though from doing that I would gain some understanding. Countless discussions, video clips, phone calls and endless questions in the following days helped to ease the shock, but I'm not sure the hurt will ever completely go away. It's amazing how the events of September 11th can still make me cry - a person who has no connection to what happened other than a wonderful visit to NYC during high school. I can't imagine how the families must still be feeling...
It's hard to believe that so much time has passed since that day. 6 years later, I'm someone who is responsible for teaching kids to respect each other and learn about the differences between themselves and others so that this never happens again. I hope I'm up to that challenge because I truly believe the future of our world depends on it's children.
"Miiiiss! I hate Christian people! They're mean!" shouted A, one of the Muslim kids in my classroom in London.
Shocked, I turned around to see a little boy with an angry face who clearly didn't understand the significance of his words. It was obvious that he hadn't learned to say that on his own...
"A! Now why would you say that?"
"I don't know - they're loud and mean and I don't like them!"
"Did you know that I'm a Christian?" I said this gently to the child, who had always liked me.
"Yep! And you know what? I don't think you hate me, do you?" (with a smile)
"No Miss! I love you! I don't hate you!" He was starting to look confused.
"Okay then, so maybe you don't hate Christian people after all then, A. Plus, I think Islam is a lovely faith - you have some beautiful things written in the Qu'aran and you also believe in a lot of the same things as Christians. Just because we don't believe in all of the same things doesn't mean we can't be friends, right?"
"You know the Qu'aran?!! How do you know that??" He was always amazed that I knew anything about Islam...
"Yes, A, I do, because I think it's very very important that we learn about each other's beliefs so we can understand and be respectful of each other. Don't you think the world would be a better place if we were all friends?"
"Yes Miss, I do! Maybe I could teach the class about the Qu'aran!"
After that, I stopped teaching the class about religion. Instead, I let THEM sit up on my chair with one of their friends and tell the rest of the class about their religion and beliefs. Sometimes they needed a bit of intervention, but it was truly amazing to watch 7 year old children explain to their wide-eyed peers about their beliefs in God (or gods) and share their faith.
"You know what boys and girls? One day you're going to save the whole world!"