Vacuuming the stairs today...I was thinking about 9/11. Here on the west coast, we don't always feel the reality of what might be going on in the rest of the country. Like the economy. If I didn't watch the news or read about the crazed down slide, I'd have thought it was all fake. But then a year later or so, we got evidence of a crummy economy as well. So now that our part of the country sucks, I think (hope) that Wall Street is perking up a bit back east. No? Cross fingers.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
So on the morning of 9/11, all I knew for real was that my family couldn't get on a plane to Hawaii. That made us crazy. And the next day? Still no flight out. Watching the whole ordeal on TV still didn't seem to make it real. Yes, I understood it was awful, terrible, etc....I'm just saying that had I had my tv turned off that week (and computer and not read the paper), I would never have known what was happening.
I had a dream later that week that I hadn't had since I was a little girl. One where I was walking around my small town and then all of a sudden there were army tanks and army guys - from some "bad" country, taking us over and picking us up and taking us away. So weird.
I guess in elementary school we had only read about things like the holocaust and how people had to leave their homes unexpectedly and forcibly, leaving all their beloved personal items behind. That's perhaps the extent of our experience and knowledge of anything difficult as kids. Lucky us.
Which leads me to...a few years ago when I was teaching 5th grade, we were doing a project on immigration. You can read about it all you want, but until you experience it, you just don't really get what it means to be forced out of the only home you've ever known and get the heck out of town. We had many immigrants come in to talk to the students, but one in particular hit a nerve with us all. He described his parents waking his brothers and him up in the middle of the night. His father had practiced swimming (among crocodiles!) across the Mekong River to Thailand in order to escape the leaders in his town who were about to force him to "do bad things." Finally, he came back to put his family on a raft and swim them across to Thailand (for his second time) to safety. THEN, they got on boats headed toward the U.S. for a new life. I guess it all sounded hard and perhaps scary, but when he mentioned to the group of 60 5th graders that they had to EAT EACH OTHER on the boat ride over, they all started truly imagining the struggles he went through to get here.
WHY would they eat each other? Wasn't there enough food? The students had many questions about this. He very respectfully answered that when someone got very sick and it was obvious that he would not survive the trip, he "of course" offered his body up to be eaten in order to save the others. Yes, while they were still alive. My students were in awe. Shock and awe.
And then we did this. That night, the kids were instructed to open an envelope at home at 7:30 that night. The envelope contained a letter which described something like, "your family needs to leave your home tonight and you may not ever return again. You are allowed to take ONE small bag or suitcase with you. You have 30 minutes to gather your things. Bring this bag with you to school to show what you would include." And yes, they understood it was an assignment, not for real.
The next day...it was a pretty intense day. Kids were super quiet and clung to their bags. There were many surprises. For one, about two thirds of the kids packed Bibles. Being that we were in a public school, we never really talked about religion and so I was just surprised a bit by how many felt it important to bring their Bible. The other surprise, most of the bags were NOT fully packed. I think only two kids brought a hand held battery type of game because the others had thought about the lack of battery life. They didn't pack many toys, if any. Most everyone's bags included the same basic needs: a spare warm outfit, a Bible or book, a baggie of pencils and paper, a family picture, and a stuffed animal of some sort. For some, a small bag of food. And that's it. Each student had to stand and talk about why they chose what they chose to bring. And can you guess what happened next?
They cried. And cried. And cried some more. It was a bawl fest. Boys, girls, everyone. And then lots of hugging. It was amazing.
I guess that it goes to show that you can't really read about adverse times for other people. You can't even understand it when you watch it on TV. But when you get a taste of it, even on a small scale, for real...well, it can be powerful. And hopefully meaningful.
So on the anniversary of 9/11, let us all appreciate the freedom we have and that we are not being shooed out of our homes, headed for unknown territory.
Posted by Vacuum Queen at 6:36 PM