That was the question that 18 years later I can still clearly hear my 4 year-old son asking me. Nearly two decades later, I still don’t have a good answer.
It was my second week of school teaching in a new district. A vendor with whom I had a scheduled appointment was late and explained as he arrived that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I pictured some yahoo in a small private plane somehow making a horrific mistake.
My library’s television wasn’t on, but I did have a computer. The sales rep and I sat down and watched as the second plane hit the tower. I initially thought it was a repeating loop of the first plane, not being able to conceive of two different planes hitting this symbol of New York City. It was unimaginable.
A teacher who taught Participation in Government brought his class down to watch the library’s television and for the first time I heard the name Osama bin Laden. I had no idea who that was, but that teacher became a dear friend from whom I’ve since learned many additional things.
School closed early and faculty and students filed out of the building in a remarkably quiet fashion. Under the bluest of blues skies I drove to pick up my children from their daycare, eager to have them in my arms.
In the days which followed the sky continued to shine inexplicably blue. I drove the NYS thruway west to work as tractor trailers headed south laden with huge generators to provide power to those seeking survivors and recovering bodies of those lost.
In the weeks that followed, people were kinder to one another, voices were softer. There was a sense of appreciation for the heroism displayed by the police and fire fighters who risked their lives. Our country, while broken, was whole. We were United States.