I remember hearing about the World Trade Center attack in the morning hours. I had just dropped my class off for music class when a parent entered the building and demanded that we turn on a TV to see what was happening. The images were breathtaking. Startling. And the people watching quickly became nervous and fearful. Many sped to the gas stations as rumors were already circulating about the coming $8 per gallon price.
When I picked up my students to return them to the classroom, I paused. My fourth graders had already entered the classroom when I turned to my colleague in the room next door. I remember telling him, "I don't know if I can do this." Already, in my mind, I was thinking of the images of the bombing in Oklahoma City: the sound of it, he images, and my dealings with teachers, parents, and students on the day of the blast. Already I was recalling the actions I was responsible for taking on that day in 1995: locking the school building, informing and calming teachers, and letting parents into the door only to hug their children and send them back to classes.
Of course, I could "do this". I could go into that classroom, and I could indeed face this different group of children...and I could do it with the confidence that I knew how this all worked. I had seen and responded to a terrorist attack six years prior. I had counseled my second graders through the similar horrific event (even those who had lost family friends in the explosion). I had done all of these things (and perhaps more) and survived. Facing 9/11 would be similar but different, and I could face it in my far-from-New-York-or-Washington classroom. I knew what to say to children and how to say it. When others were wary, I was able to share my experience with them.
I could face 9/11 because I had been strengthened by 4/19.