Yesterday, September 11, is a day that most of us will never forget. It is a day that is hard for many people. It stirs up memories, what ifs, and fears. It reminds us of how short life can be. It is burned in the memory of all of those who were alive and old enough to know what was happening on that day. My youngest daughter came home and said her teacher told them to ask their parents where they were and what they were doing when the events of September 11, 2001 occurred. I vividly remember standing in my classroom in Georgia (only my second year as a teacher) when we were told over the loud speaker to not go outside. No one knew why at first. Sometimes we would get told not to go outside because there was a big dog running around out there or something small like that. At first, we really didn’t think much of it, but word quickly traveled down the hallway. We only had bits of information and were really confused by what we were hearing. All of the teachers were all standing near our doors trying to find out more while also trying to do our job. I can remember one little boy in my class who was working on the computer close to the doorway. He looked up at me with his sweet, innocent face and asked me if everything was ok. He had sensed that something was wrong. I did my best to reassure him that everything was fine, not knowing myself if that was really the truth. I swear his sweet little face will be forever in my mind and connected with that day. It was such a tragic, scary day.
Yesterday was made scary for me yet again. I think September 11 will always bring up fear in all of us, and the events that unfolded here yesterday were likely made worse just because of what day it was. As my oldest daughter was getting ready for school in the morning, she started to get messages from classmates about a Snapchat message that was floating around detailing an organized mass-shooting plot naming several area schools as targets. The more she was seeing and reading, the more nervous she was getting. She started telling me that she didn’t want to go to school and saying things like, “What if I die?” I immediately started looking into the threat and found mention of it on the county sheriffs’ page and the school district’s page. It basically said that they were aware of the threat, that they had not found any credible evidence other than the Snapchat message to prove that it was a serious threat, and that there would be an increased police presence at all schools just in case. We did not know if her school was one of the ones that was listed in the threat as the police and school officials were keeping that information confidential. I immediately called my husband at work asking his opinion about whether or not to keep her home from school. We both came to the conclusion that she should go to school based on the information I had. It appeared that the parents of the students in the schools that were named had received an email from the school system the night before making them aware of the threat. We had not gotten an email so we took that to mean that my daughter’s school wasn’t on the target list. I talked to my daughter about the threat, made sure she knew what to do in the event that something did happen, and tried to reassure her that it was likely a hoax. When I dropped her off at school, she said to me, “I hope I’m not dead when you come to pick me up.” I know that she was half kidding and half serious, but it almost made me tell her to get back in the car and go home. Instead, I drove off leaving her there and went home to worry. I scoured social media and the news trying to get updates on the threat and it’s validity to try to reassure myself that I did the right thing by sending her to school. I did end up getting an email from the school system about 30 minutes after I dropped her off basically saying the same things that were posted online by the county sheriff’s office. However, I then started to worry that it meant that her school was included in the threat and my anxiety kicked into overdrive. About an hour later, I got an automated call from one of the assistant principals at her school saying that there were rumors that there was an active shooter at the school, but they were false. I guess some kids were texting from the school saying that there was a gunman in the building. Talk about being scared! I spent the whole day second-guessing my decision to send her to school and texting her randomly just to make sure things were ok. It was a long 7 hours until I picked her up. She said everyone was talking about it at school and everyone was nervous. She even told me that one of her teachers told them that if there had been a shooter in the building, they would have all been dead. Seriously? Why would you tell them that?
Would I have been as worried had it been any other day of the year that this happened? The answer is probably yes, but I do think that the fact that it was September 11 made it a little more intense than normal. Will we always experience this day with fear? I don’t know about you, but I honestly think I will. It is just like I will always worry about my kids. I am not writing this post to get into any kind of political debate or for any other reason other than to say that I was afraid. I was afraid for my beautiful girls who still have so much life to live. I was afraid for my husband as a member of our military and as someone who lost a classmate on that terrible day. I was afraid for my fellow teachers who are willing to risk their own lives to protect their students. I was afraid of the unknown. It was just a scary day. I pray that my girls never have to feel that fear like we did on that day 18 years ago or like I did yesterday when they send their own kids to school one day in the future. The police and school system have since reported that there is no threat to the schools and that the situation is under control. My fear has subsided and things are back to normal today, but I will never forget.