It was a couple of minutes before my first period class ended when I noticed a news alert email popping into my mailbox at school. I read the blurb -- about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York and immediately hit the link, fully expecting that I would find that some stray pilot in a little plane had made a horrible navigation error. I tried to go to the ABC News website to see the story, but it would not load.
Not in a minute.
Not in five minutes.
And then I got the dreadful second email -- that a second plane had hit the Twin Towers, that both planes were passenger jets, and that America was under attack by parties unknown.
Over the next few hours, I learned more from television coverages as lesson plans were scrapped and I let my students watch history unfold before them.
The thing most clear in my mind was the moment when intelligence experts began talking about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda -- and the apparent Islamic inspiration of the attack. In the back of the room, my one Muslim student began to shake his head and weep. The students sitting around him later told me that they heard the words he softly spoke as if in prayer -- "No, no. It can't be true. Please -- let it not be true." Those words serve as a reminder to this day that the evil committed in the name of Islam that day does not represent that faith as lived by the overwhelming majority of Muslims.
That evening I learned more, including personal connections -- that the plane that went down in Pennsylvania went down not far from the home of one of my wife's college friends. That there were a number of my college classmates from New York who no one had heard from, including some who worked in the I would learn that the New York contingent were all safe and sound -- but that the office of Commander Robert Schlegel, USN, was near the point of impact at the Pentagon, and that he had been killed in this act of war against our country.
We are ten years on from that terrible day. There will be many speeches, many articles, and many news stories commemorating the events of 9/11. That is important, as we must never forget, and must never let our guard down. If all the commemorations do nothing except refortify our resolve to protect this nation, then they are worthwhile. May our people always know they are secure -- and may our enemies know that they will face our undying wrath.