Monday, September 10, 2012

The Day After Teachers’ Day

I’ve confessed before that I do go back and read my blog entries. Sometimes for continuity – especially if I’m writing a series linked by the same topic. I also go back and read them to marvel at the magic, and even the terror and uncertainty of my early days here. Recently I’ve been sending select entries to Gary, who is currently working in Shanghai. He appreciates the diversion and the reading material. In order to decide what to send him I review past posts.

If you’ve been with us for any amount of time, you should know that September 10th is Teachers’ Day in China. You can read about my first celebration in the September 2010 archive. As with the two previous years, my phone chimed off the wall from morning to night with tributes and well wishes. Even students that have already graduated sent their greetings.

Wow. I know I am more confident leading a class than I was 2 years ago and I know that the students all enjoy my class but to receive such an outpouring… Just… WOW.

And that’s not all, folks! Remember my very first class, Monday mornings at 8AM? I do. Teaching Building 2, on the 6th floor… that I didn’t know how to get to. That group is now Seniors, set for graduation next June. They came by this evening to bring me a bouquet of flowers, reminisce and catch up. They’re very busy filling out job applications and writing resumes nowadays, and looking tremulously toward their future in the real world. Still, they took time to remember their old English teacher. WOW.

They’re not the only ones who play that memory game. Every time I pass Building 2 I look up at that window and think of them. I think, next year it will be harder on me to do that because those kids will be gone. Gone from this school but definitely not from my heart.

Here is another thing that is not gone from my heart or memory: September 11th, 2001.

I venture that everyone has a day of infamy: one of those catastrophic events that lives forever in our mind. We remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. Rock Hudson has AIDS. Elvis is dead. Truce/cease-fire in Vietnam. Nixon resigns. JFK shot. MLK shot.

My day of infamy is September 11th, 2001.

I was holding my then 6-day old grandson when the phone rang shortly after 9AM. My son, estranged for some months was crying: “Mom, turn on the TV! Turn on the TV! Oh my God!!” To my panicked shouts he only repeated “Turn on the TV”. I did.

That moment is burned in my mind for eternity.

There I stood, in the living room of my safe suburban home, holding this gift of life in my arms and witnessing such devastation. Time stood still as newsreels showed, over and over again, those planes flying into those buildings.

How could that be? How could I be holding a miracle while witnessing such horror?

All that day radio stations played Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the U.S.A. CNN reported the escalating body count. Phone lines, both cellular and landline were jammed. That night, driving to work the skies over Dallas/Fort Worth showed nothing but stars. No planes circling around, waiting their cue to approach and land.

No planes flew over any cities that night, and not for several months. It was nothing but a sign of the times. How eerie it was to not see something you take for granted will always be a part of the landscape! Or, in this case the sky-scape.  

As I scan the news these past few days, reports are full of Convention coverage, campaign and poll updates and, inevitably, football stories, along with the usual smattering of what Tinseltown stars are doing. I’ll admit my American news scanning resources are somewhat limited in China but nowhere have I seen anything talking about any tribute of 9/11, as I have in the past 2 years.

Maybe that’s the right thing to do. Maybe looking forward, or focusing on today is more important than memorializing and remembering something that happened a mere eleven years ago. Maybe only a select few care. Maybe, like those who make their annual pilgrimage to Graceland to commemorate Elvis’ death, there are those to flock to where the twin towers used to stand and pay their respects.

And then there are those who, while still a world away, remember what it feels like to hold a days-old baby while witnessing airplanes being used as missiles. 

If we must forget the horror, let us not forget those who gave all, either as victims of circumstance or as a part of the rescue teams. Let us not forget those who were there firsthand. Let us not forget those who worked interminable hours in abominable conditions, hoping to save just one more life. Let us not forget those who lost family members.

And, most of all let us not forget our Service men and women who have fallen in the line of duty and those who, still today are overseas, trying to right that monumental wrong done to Our Nation 11 years ago.      

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