Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11

Everything happens when I'm in school. I guess that's because I spent most of my life in the classroom, one way or the other. When JFK was shot, I was in my first year of teaching. I was talking to to my fourth-period class about some scene in Huckleberry Finn when the school secretary came to the door and called me out of the room. She told me that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. That was all she knew. I went back into class and finished the lesson.

I had a study hall the next period. It was in a huge room with a lot of students. I think there must have been 100, but I could easily be mistaken. When I walked in, the room was completely quiet, a big change from the usual. Someone had set a little transistor radio in one of the windows and tuned it to a Dallas station. For the rest of the period we all listened. For nearly an hour nobody said a thing. Some of the students cried.

Five years ago on this date I was in my office at Alvin Community College. A lot of years in a lot of different schools had gone by since that long ago day in 1963. I was grading some papers when John Duke came in from the office next door to tell me that something was happening in New York. An airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. He had a TV set in his office, so I went with him to see what was going on. We saw the Twin Towers collapse.

Like a lot of people who were a good distance removed from the event, I spent most of the rest of the day in a kind of daze. I couldn't quite get a grip on what had happened. I'm not sure I have one yet. In the years since, a lot of things have happened in this country. Most of them I don't like at all, though I don't often talk about them here. That's not the purpose of this blog (in case you were wondering, the purpose of this blog is to keep me entertained). I just thought I'd say a few words today and then move on.


Jeff Meyerson said...

I was a sophomore in high school in 1963, two days before my 15th birthday. I got the news from a guy who lived across the street from me as I passed between classes. (Of course his information was wrong, but that's another story.)

Five years ago I was downtown (Brooklyn, not Manhattan) when I heard about the first plane on the car radio. I assumed it was like the plane that his the Empire State Building in 1945, and then I heard about the second plane.

Benjamin Potter said...

1963 I don't remember--I was born in August of that year.

2001 I had just left a prayer breakfast at church in Palestine, Texas, to go to the Post Office. I heard the news on the radio and thought this couldn't be real. We didn't get much work done at the church office that day.

Todd Mason said...

Hey, Bill, you inadvertantly refer to the events in Dallas as happening in 1964, in your post here. Slightly younger than Benjamin Potter, I have no memory of the bullet assassinations of the 1960s, from King's to George Lincoln Rockwell's, from Medgar Evers's to Sam Cooke's. Nor the Wallace shooting, as delayed as that was.

But I do remember thinking that the report of Reagan's shooting was a grim joke on the part of the AV kid who came out to inform his friends at our Honolulu high school...only a few months after Lennon's murder. He was grimacing and I misinterpreted. I was in my office at a chain bookstore when the Murrah Building bombing was announced over NPR, and couldn't help but eventually think that had it been the John Birch Society in 1969 rather than Xian Identity in 1994 who'd set up the fertilizer bombing, I could've been one of the Federal dependents pulled out of the daycare in the building. The Philadelphia WorldCon had just ended on 9/11/01, and my car was still in the shop, as it had been during the con, so I heard something about a small plane hitting the WTC on NPR as I went out the door to catch the bus to 30th Street Station; as I disembarked and walked across the AmTrak concourse to the SEPTA regional rail lines, for some reason all the AmTrak service was being suspended, something I didn't think about too much as I was running late. At one point, my commuter train started trying to find a good hiding place as it stopped along its course...under the bridge? No, probably a narrow passage? Probably not best either...

I work for one of the surviving television listings services, and so it was part of my professional duties to note that essentially all broadcast services in the US, including the home-shopping channels, were transmitting whatever news-feed they could get...US networks, the BBC, the CBC (a marathon edition of THE NATIONAL was fed south by the Conus All-News Channel, a corporate sibling of several home-shopping channels), the Philadelphia independent public station interrupted its BBC WORLD NEWS marathon only for an extended KBS Korean news broadcast.

If a crisis is defined by Nothing Else Happens, that was a crisis.

Five years later, it remains such a stupid, awful thing...among so many other stupid, awful things.

Oddly enough, I've started reading this past weekend the first Clark Howard novel I've picked up, DIRT RICH, which reminds us of several of the others, as an historical novel set in Texas just after WWI.

Bill said...

That "1964" was a typo, which I've fixed. Bad fingering.

I was in school when the Reagan shooting occurred, too. The Dean of Women at Howard Payne University walked up to the third floor of the Main Building to let us know.

Clark Howard used to live in the Houston area and attend the Houston MWA meetings, which is where I met him. Judy and I read Dirt Rich when it was published, and we both enjoyed it. It's not a mystery, but it's a good novel.

Todd Mason said...

Typos are catching. I manage to put the Murrah bombing in 1994 rather than 1995.

I'm not sure I'd ever laid eyes on any of Howard's novels, after reading his short fiction for decades, though I knew he'd written books, such as the nf SIX AGAINST THE ROCK. Saturday, moving from the new neighborhood's public library booksale to the local 2ndhand bookstore, I happened across copies of DIRT RICH and TRACES OF MERCURY, the latter for some reason not included in the few online bibliographies I've found for Howard.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I was skipping school the day Kennedy was shot. I tuned in to watch my favorite game shows and heard the news. I considered running over and alerting my high school (literally 30 feet from the house), but decided not to.

Lonnie Cruse said...

I was a newlywed and my husband and I were leaving home to visit friends. As we passed the neighbor's window (small apartment complex) I heard someone say something about the president being shot, and I remember thinking what a weird movie she must be watching! Who would make a film about a President being shot? Little did I know.

I was home alone when the twin towers collapsed. Don't think I'll ever forget the sight.

Your blog is always entertaining to me. My blog today is about one of your Professor Sally books. Unfortunately I didn't have the title handy when I blogged about it. Feel free to go over there and bawl me out. Or correct me, or whatever. Bring a Hershey Bar.

Bill said...

I'd never bawl out anybody who reads my books. I'll bring a Hershey bar, though.