Tomorrow my two youngest daughters begin their first *official* day of preschool. Some of you might think I'm revving up for a big celebration-being left with only ONE child at home tomorrow morning. Those of you who know me better might be thinking that I'm walking around the house a tad melancholy tonight, eyeing baby pictures of my now 3 and 4 year old girls, fingering the material of their tiny first day of school outfits, letting my good night hugs linger just a moment longer than normal as I tuck them in to bed.
Actually, you'd all be a little bit right, but you'd be a little bit wrong, too.
Tomorrow, this special "first" in our world has a dark shadow cast upon it. Tomorrow is September 11th. Not even a decade ago, the mere mention of that date wouldn't cause anyone to raise an eyebrow anymore than if I'd said April 8th. Now, people inquiring about the start of preschool hear the words "September 11th" and simply nod their head in unspoken mourning for all events with the poor misfortune of occurring on that date.
On the first September 11th, I remember precisely where I was, where my husband, children and loved ones were. I can remember the clear, crisp blue sky as I drove up route 52 on my way to Pine Bush Elementary School. In waves, memories of that day cross my mind when the date of September 11th is announced: the intercom calling the first (of many) of my students out of class unexpectedly, the announcement minus any explanation for classrooms to begin lockdown procedures, the face of the assistant principal scrunched up against my classroom window beckoning me toward her, the crackle of the walkie talkie in her hand as she blurted out, "The country is under attack." handing my last student over to his parent and racing out of the building desperate to find my husband and children, the long walk up the sidewalk to my girlfriend's house where the comfort of my husband's arms gathered what little of me was left and held it together, the sounds of the innocent, unknowing footsteps of our children playing two floors above with their friends, the phone call from our principal that night declaring that school would be open the next day-we needed to be there for the children, hanging up wondering who, then, would be there for us, and falling asleep (or at least trying) to the Fox News crew attempting to make sense of the senseless-of that day-September 11th. The normalcy of that date abruptly vanished .
It will be many years before someone hears the date and doesn't stop to remember how their life changed on that day. My prayer is that in their future my youngest daughters will relish a bit of a return to normalcy on this date; that someone will ask them the significance of September 11th and they'll have to delve deep into their memories to respond, "September 11th? Oh yeah, that's the day we started preschool."