On Wednesday, September 12, 2001, Ms. Hall, a 6th grade Social Studies teacher at Phillips Middle School, gave her students an assignment:
Pretend to be the President of the United States and write a letter to America.
It was a brilliant assignment – a wonderful way to help these eleven year olds (and their parents) think about, talk about and attempt to understand the events of the previous day and what they meant to us – as individuals, as families and as a country. Here is the letter my son wrote that day.
As you have, I have been watching the news feeling so sad and so angry.
Much has been said of bombing them right back. However, we do not want to provoke the Afghanistan people to bounce back and hit us. As well, we do not want to start a war between the US haters and us. However, we would win, it would come with loss of both our barracks as well as theirs.
Right now we just need to bump up security in all places, especially in airports as well as in our very own households. This is not to make you scared, but to make you aware and ready.
Now we also have to mourn for the victims, their families and friends.
A nation so great, humbleness can do nothing in this case because greatness shows on the outside. We will continue to be strong and loyal to our country.
We must continue life because life can’t go on without closure and the only way to have closure for this tragedy is to continue while remembering.
President of the United States of America
September 12, 2001
Remembering has never been hard. None of us will ever forget.
Figuring out how to continue has been a mighty challenge for many.
I re-visit and share this letter each year, as a way of honoring the victims of this tragedy and their loved ones.
And as a way of thanking all who have helped the survivors cope and continue.
Whether they be firefighters on the scene that day,
or caregivers who have nursed survivors back to health,
or teachers (like Ms. Hall) of children who witnessed the horror from far away –
we will not forget all who did their work so well
and helped us do as Ryan urged us to do in his letter to America,
“to continue while remembering”.
Who and what has helped you continue while remembering?
Note: Ishna Hall is now Associate Director of Capital Gifts at UNC-Chapel Hill. Ryan graduated from Carolina in May and now lives in Washington, DC.