On September 11, 2001, I was a spring green Latin teacher in Lake Forest. That morning, I was much more intent on shoring up my lesson plans for the day than fiddling on the Internet. (Probably because it was early in the week. If it had happened on a Friday, I would totally have been on E!Online reading gossip.)
When I arrived at my first class, second period, my students asked me if I had heard anything about a plane crashing in New York. I said that I hadn't, and I didn't really give the gossip much thought, until another teacher came into my room and tried to jump on my computer to access the Internet, which had crashed. We all spent the rest of the morning huddled in another classroom listening to the radio reports of what was happening in New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
One thing I remember most about that day was the uncertainty, the thought that this could happen to any of us anywhere at any time. I still feel nerves whenever I see a low-flying plane in the sky (which happens a lot, since I live near O'Hare). I got a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I drove home from Indiana (across the big suspension bridge and over the Skyway) the day of the bridge collapse in Minnesota, wondering if that was the result of a terrorist plot. If they could get us in Minnesota, they could get us anywhere.
And the image that most sticks in my mind from 9/11/2001 is what I saw while driving home from Lake Forest on the Edens. Around a bend (I think near Tower Road, but I don't remember and I'm not going to go drive the route for you this morning), the Sears "I won't call it Willis" Tower looms into view from out of nowhere. It just jumps into your eye line. And from September 11 onward, I've never taken that view for granted. What if one day that massive structure was suddenly gone?
The next day, I read with my students this eyewitness account (by Pliny the Younger, which I'm told is also very good beer) of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. In the aftermath of the attacks, it seems all too familiar.
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