Editor’s Note: The letters below were written in 2001 and appear in the self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. Printed and distributed in 2002, the book was the result of an independent, volunteer documentary project organized by a journalist and several friends. The author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.
TEACHER & HER STUDENTS
Long Island, New York
Like many across America, a Long Island elementary school teacher and her students were not content to sit still in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy. Below are letters the students sent to New York City rescue workers Sept. 20, along with an introductory letter written by their teacher.
Our trust and security shattered in a heartbeat. Teaching to children who we know will grow up in a different environment than we did, knowing the word “terrorist” years before their time. Also, knowing another meaning for hatred. It is a new experience for all of us.
In one of the letters, an eight-year-old is scared because so many rescue workers got killed. “Now if it ever happens again, who will be there to help?” Some wish they didn’t live in this great city and had to go home to crying parents. Another student calls the day a “911.” We could smell the smoke here in our Long Island enclave of privacy and peace.
Almost everyone knows someone who died. We know the parents of a fine twenty-three-year-old who died along with 700 other workers in the bond firm of Cantor Fitzgerald (this left 1,500 children without at least one parent.). Just one week earlier, she told her parents that money wasn’t everything and she was going to pursue a master’s degree in social work at Berkley. This is unthinkable for any parent, and we all grieve with them and wonder and hope that they can truly go on and enjoy life again. Their strong family and friends will be there for them, but this void will leave a permanent hole in their hearts forever. Just the thought leaves the rest of us numb, and we too fear for our cherished families.