Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Tragic Tuesday

I remember a few days ago, looking at pictures of Catholic schoolchildren in Northern Ireland walking to school under protection of riot police and feeling embarrassed at all the fuss I make over little things at my kids’ schools, instructional aides not in place, IEPs not sent out, teachers not informed, forms not delivered. I make of these things a disaster, when in other parts of the world children are facing violence and terror.

Now, of course, I don’t even have to look to other parts of the world to put these things into perspective. I just have to look out the window.

We live close enough to New York City to see the cloud of smoke rising where the World Trade Center used to be, close enough that some of my children’s classmates will likely have lost loved ones in the tragedy. As of Tuesday afternoon, the attack was still a thing of rumors and mishearings. My daughter had heard from a girl in the lunchroom that there had been a plane accident; my son’s special-ed teacher had told his class only that there was a fire in New York. The teacher told me that she felt it was the parents’ job to explain the situation. Thanks. How do we do that exactly?

We said that bad people had driven planes into buildings. We said that many, many people had been killed. We said that the people who are trying to find out why think that the bad people hate our country, and wanted to hurt us. I don’t know if we said the right things, but we tried to say them calmly. We tried to keep the TV off. How many pictures of collapsing buildings, falling bodies and bloodied survivors do children need to see? Zero would be good, I think.

Today, life is going on. I have a meeting with my daughter’s teacher this afternoon to request the necessary accommodations, and with my son’s teacher tomorrow to gather information for his twice-yearly neurological appointment next week. The school principal still owes us a promised spare set of textbooks to keep at home. My son’s IEP is still MIA. The message I left at the special-ed office about the errant instructional aide has still not been answered. There’s homework to be done, tests to study for, after-school programs to look into, administrators to harrass. But it’s hard to muster my usual sense of outrage over these minor hassles. It’s not, as they say, the end of the world. The end of the world is across the Hudson.

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