Most of the tragic events of 9/11 occurred within my eyesight, even from a far distance.
I had to walk down to the Brooklyn Bridge, joining the exodus of ash-covered humanity to the only rail terminal that was working in Brooklyn. I watched cartoons all night, trying desperately to avoid even looking at the news footage.
So imagine my raw senses when I’m teaching classes about 9/11 today. Many were small children when it happened. How can I use a chart or some damn educational fad from Teachers College about this? How dare these inhuman morons make me even rehash the events of that day. Where the hell were they?
Yet these kids had to know. They wanted to know. I would be a disgrace as a teacher if I didn’t share my experience. At that moment, it was better to just tell my story. I did, narrating every second of that day. It happened over and over, in many classes for many students. In some rooms, you could hear a pin drop. That’s the power of oral history.
My advice on this solemn day–sometimes its best to heave that plan book out the window. Shut the fuck up and let the witnesses tell the story. I assure you, they’ll never forget it.