If you are teenager or older, you can tell anyone who asks exactly where you were eight years ago yesterday. It's one of those moments that has passed into history in the same way that we remember Kennedy's assassination, the space shuttles, the moon landing... We all know exactly where we were when the towers fell.
I wrote about 9/11 last year, and I don't think I can say it any better now. Instead, I want to write about September 12. You see, we all remember 9/11. We mourn. We cry. We say the Pledge. We lower our flags to half mast. We feel sad and vaguely lost all day long. And all of that is as it should be.
And then we wake up on September 12 and we do what needs doing. Just like we all did eight years ago. This year we talked about 9/11 and then I read an amazing book to my class. It was written by a class of first graders, and it's called September 12th. The book says this:
September 12th was a new day. We knew everything would be all right. because...Isn't that the truth? Here's what I told my students this year:
the sun came up and the birds started to sing again.
We knew everything would be all right because we had homework.
2+2 still added up to 4.
We knew we would be all right because our parents said they loved us.
We've talked already about what happened eight years ago. We've talked about the heroes, we've talked about courage. We've talked about how important it is to be the kind of person who is willing to do what is right, no matter what it costs you. You know all those things. But, before we are finished, I want to talk to you about September 12. That's a very important date in American history, too.Happy September 12, my friends. God bless us all.
You see, that was the day that we all knew everything was going to be alright. And, here's how we knew. On September 12, firefighters and police officers all over the country went back to work, still ready to face a burning building. Doctors and nurses and ambulance drivers, some of whom hadn't slept yet, all showed up for work. Ready to help. Mommas and Daddies woke up, made breakfast, got their children dressed, took them to school, and went to their own jobs. On September 12, teachers all over the country met their students at the classroom door with a smile. Ministers went to visit people who were sick and hurting and confused. Friends called each other, made play dates, spent time together. People laughed and cried and hugged and ate dinner. Just lived. Like we always have. Like we always do.
If you want to know what a hero is, I'll tell you. A hero is a person who does what needs doing, no matter what. But, a hero is also a person who lives through something terrible and gets back up the next day and does what needs doing. Even if what needs doing is as boring as cooking dinner or doing the laundry. Heroes aren't only people who run into a burning building. Heroes are people like you. And me. And your parents. People who wake up every day and say, "I'm going to do the best I can with whatever comes my way. I'm going to do what needs doing. If it is homework, or chores, or grading papers. And then tomorrow, I'm going to do it all again."
The image above is a first grade illustration from the book September 12.
Update: 11:40 a.m.: I had to come back and tell you this. My daughter saw the book September 12 and said, "Hey we read that. Momma, how come everybody thinks a hero has to be a person who does something like saving a life? That's not right."
"What do you mean that's not right, Sloane? Tell me what you think it takes to be a hero."
"Everybody can be a hero, Momma. All it takes is to help somebody. It can be something like when you see someone fall down and you go and help them up."
That gave me delighted shivers, let me tell you. We hadn't talked about this subject before. Ever. Sloane just knew it. Do you want to know who my hero is? Well, Sloane is one of them. For sure.