I wore this “flag” pin to school today, as I have for the past 12 years. I was teaching 3rd grade on 9/11/2001 and had a lovely class of 26 or so kids who I had just met a few weeks earlier. We were just settling in to our school day when an announcement was made for all teachers to check their email. As you can imagine, in the email we were notified about the terrorist attacks and asked to keep our cool and not to talk to our kids about it. That was a tall order. We had email, but none of us had cell phones yet, so we didn’t have access to news except for the notoriously slow school computers, and internet was shut down almost immediately. What a long, difficult day it was.
My son was in the same school with me, at that time in a fifth grade classroom with a teacher who I trusted and respected. Still, the first moment I had, I went across the school to simply look at him, to see for myself that he was okay.
In the days and weeks that followed, my students had a great need to “do something to help”. We made these pins and sold them for $1 each. We also made a simpler version with just 6 large beads on a large safety pin. We raised several hundred dollars for George Bush’s “America’s Fund for Afghan Children” (www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=79147).
Later that day, the administration went class-to-class in the 5th and 6th grade rooms to tell the kids what had happened. I grew concerned for my third graders. That class of kids graduated from high school 2 years ago, and I can still visualize their little faces as we gathered around for circle time at the end of that troubling day. “You will hear stories from other kids on the bus about bad things that happened today,” I told them, trying hard to keep it together. “Just promise me that you’ll try not to listen, and wait until you get home to let your parents be the first ones that you talk to about this.”
The days that followed were full of questions, theories, and patriotism. My classroom became a safe haven, a respite from the news. Today, one of my 5th grade students asked about my flag pin. As we were talking, she said, “I don’t know too much about that. I was born the year after it happened.” And I seriously couldn’t help thinking, “Good for you. What a blessing…”