Monday, May 2, 2011

News on Osama bin Laden hits Belgium

It's all over the newscasts, radio stations, papers.

I wake up to hear the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed and am asked by Belgians "What next?" A very good question, and one that will be considered in the days to come.

Now I think back to 9/11.

On that day, I was teaching at Quince Orchard High in Montgomery County. 
I reacted as a news consumer, doing what we all do in this kind of a crisis: checking in with my family-- a brother and sisters who worked in NYC. Watching and listening, rather than covering the news.

I remember scoffing at what sounded like a rumor at first. Then, when I walked down the hall into the teacher's lounge: the news was confirmed. TV's snapped on in classrooms. The principal's office at Quince Orchard High became a center for phone triage, as shaken students raced to contact parents who worked at federal buildings. Teams of school counselors were on hand to reassure the kids. Later we would learn the awful news that one of our students had lost his father in the attack on the Pentagon.

I will never forget how students kept commenting that the news footage looked just like a movie, that it couldn't be real. It looked like the special effects finale of an action movie.

And I still recall trying to comfort the kids who were most upset, at one point crouching next to the desk of a girl who was quietly sobbing, murmuring "All those people, Ms. Ryan, all those people."

Note: The photo above was snapped years after 9/11 as I walked through Manhattan.


  1. When I was in high school in the 1970s, a friend and I witnessed the crash of a passenger plane. I remember remarking to my friend "How weird. There was no music." We've been conditioned to expect ominous background music when something dramatic happens. The reality was just a plane at low altitude making odd engine noise, and then a "THUD" as it hit a house in the near distance. We even argued whether the plane had crashed. There was no fiery explosion. Just a plane in a house.

  2. Interesting. And what struck me was how the kids looked to us adults to confirm what they were seeing. What made it so surreal was that crystal-blue sky, that gorgeous September morning, and then suddenly, unimaginable carnage.