Friday, September 9, 2011

In an Instant, Everything Changed

I was an intermediate school principal with 450+ fifth and sixth graders when 19 terrorists and four hijacked planes shocked the world with a devastating attack on America. I still recall that morning, coming out of my office to see news pictures on the school office television showing live footage of one of the towers burning. Minutes later, the second tower erupted in an explosion and somehow we knew the world was going to be different.

Some weeks following the 9/11 attacks, I was invited to watch one of our 6th graders skate in competition at a local ice rink. Curious and wanting to show my support to this young lady and her parents, I went and found a seat in the back of the cold, dark arena. Imagine for a moment a die-hard Detroit Red Wing fan watching competitive figure skating and you might have to stifle a laugh, but I was taken back by the athletic precision demonstrated that night.

For a concluding number, all of the girls performed a synchronized salute in honor of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks. The performance was backed by Enya's "Only Time," a soul-searing number that when combined with the beauty of their skating touched me deeply to the point that there is rarely a day I don't recall that evening. For a time after I thought about that night and often wondered why it affected me as much as it did. It took time but I finally came to grips and realized that at that moment, I knew that for these young girls and their generation, everything had changed. Just 12 years old, Kaitlin and her partner's lives would forever be impacted by the consequences of that horrible day.