Fourteen years ago, I was teaching third grade in San Antonio. San Antonio is known as military city. At the time, we had four military bases here. The school where I taught had many, many students who were children of service members.
We were in the middle of reading workshop when someone came to my door, beckoned me into the hall, and whispered what had happened. She passed on instructions not to tell my students. I went back into the classroom, shaken, but trying to follow directions and act as if nothing had happened.
But kids are smart.
During the next few hours, they saw parents come to the door to peek in the room, reassure themselves their precious children were ok, and leave again. They heard whispers from other children who saw their teachers trying to hide their emotions. They knew something was horribly wrong, and they were afraid.
After lunch my students returned to class, repeating the rumors that were spreading. They were worried about their families. Some were in tears. I finally did what I should have done at the start - I disobeyed the orders and told my class what had happened. I didn't care if I got in trouble. I couldn't let them go on wondering because I knew that what they were imagining was even worse than the terrible truth.
I promised I would do everything I could to keep them safe. I assured them their parents were giving their all to protect our country. I told them that the best thing we could do was to go on with our learning, that keeping with routine would hold the fear at bay, the fear that our city might be next.
So we continued with our day. We did our math facts practice. We worked on our math menu activities, and we did our science experiment. We wrote in our agendas and packed up to go home.
At the end of every day, our usual procedure was to walk out of the room, each student choosing to receive a hug, a handshake, or a high five. That day, every single kid wanted a hug.
I saw each of them safely out of the room.
Then I went home, watched the news, and cried.