By Frank Belluscio
It wouldn’t be right to let the 10th anniversary one of the most tragic, and most unifying, moments of our lifetime to go by without some acknowledgement on NJBSA’s BoardBlog. Where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001 will be etched in your mind forever.
Two years ago, I posted a blog, recounting that morning at NJSBA headquarters. On the 10th anniversary, I’d like to share it again.
September 11th, 2009
By Frank Belluscio
The call came in just after 9. It was my assistant’s daughter, asking for her mom, but eager to tell somebody–anybody–that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and that they (the news people, the police) thought it was an accident…until a second plane crashed into the other tower.
Terrorism. We knew that’s what it was. When I first heard the news, I thought small private planes were used, not missiles in the form of fully fueled jumbo 767′s. From then on, the morning looked like this: newspaper and radio Web sites were clogged; our steel-encased headquarters building did not allow for AM radio reception; and clear television reception was not possible (in a cost-cutting move, we had cancelled our cable television account). Finally, someone hooked up a TV on the third floor, providing shadowy, snowy images of lower Manhattan.
All the while, the staff members kept at their jobs, as news came in through phone calls and emails. But then, after the Pentagon was struck and United Flight 93 crashed in western Pennsylvania, the tide had turned, and by midday the executive director decided it was best to close the office.
From school districts, the stories unfolded: the elementary school students in Hoboken who witnessed the destruction through their classroom windows; the teachers who rode the buses after dismissal, making certain that the children had parents at home; and the many families of schoolchildren who suffered losses in the tragedy.
Then-NJSBA President Patti Pawling expressed her concern for the children in the face of the traumatic event.
This week, school districts throughout New Jersey commemorated 9/11 through moments of silence, days of service, and even tree plantings. Educators are facing the challenge of how, in the future, we will teach students about the event. Many students will be too young to remember, or were not born at the time. As a result, today, several New Jersey districts are piloting a new 9/11 curriculum.
In America, we went through a period of collective grief in the year following the attacks. Of course, for those who lost loved ones in the tragedy the pain can never go away.
And, for all of us, neither should the memory.
There are the heroes of the day–the first responders; and the police and firefighters, many of whom lost their lives and many of whom today are suffering physical consequences as a result of their service on 9/11 and in the days and weeks that followed.
There was also the unity. On Newsradio 880 this morning, CBS newsman Bob Schieffer recounted his memories of the attacks. What stood out, he said, was the unity that existed in the country in the weeks that followed 9/11. He provided the example of the U.S. Senate, two days after the attack, putting aside partisan differences and passing an appropriations act unanimously. Obviously, such attitudes cannot survive long in Washington, or in Trenton. People are not elected to public office to agree, but certainly, they are not elected to undercut, chastise and play politics for the sake of politics.
Two years from now, when America recognizes the 10th anniversary of the attacks, perhaps that sense of unity and common purpose in government will again be part of the picture.