9/11 Lessons of Remembrance for Eternity

In Pittsburgh, PA, at Penn Hills High School, I remembered the surreal and strange day of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 that many of us will alway remember instilled in our memories, hearts, and lives. I even started a project here that still will be morphed and adapted, as unbeknownst to me, would be revisited in several ways 20 years later.

One of the most shocking realizations as a student came into my class and then another, and another, in a very countryside/forest area of Pennsylvania, on that unforgettable day was the event that unfolded in front of our eyes moment by moment, on a perpetual loop for 20 years. I was in disbelief as student told me, then I witnessed these events, and then the moments that followed.

Not as far as even two to three years later, as I sat in the United States Investigations offices in Grove City, PA, working through investigations of to-be Federal employees, past TSA employees, future postal worked, CIA and FBI prospective employees and all those countless background checks, when we took a moment of silence for the 9/11 day and all those affected, that day in 2002, 2003, and 2004, every time we took that moment of silence, the reality of what we were doing, that sometimes seemed so remote, seemed so close to what happened that day in 2001.

Forward to 2005 to 2011, and especially 2006 and one, when we took students to Columbia University while we worked on the Aloha yearbook and competed and attended Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Association Convention, we made the pilgrimage to Ground Zero and the first responders, every day citizens, and emergency crew that my students interviewed every year and recorded, they were – well they left you with nothing able to say – speechless.

Fast forward to when I found myself in Mexico City and wanting to go back and explore the 9/11 day with how it’s impacted Latin American citizens, as the misguided perspectives was only specific populations were affected that day by this tragic moment. Although many dead ends were found I kept the 9/11 project ideas intact knowing I wanted to always keep this near so I could revisit and pick up the pieces when more were found. Then, in 2012, accompanying Repentino. Literary art magazine students from Mexico to New York and picking up the tradition of Columbia’s Scholastic Press Association we started at Seaford, we made a stop at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

We talked to curators, met and toured the Memorial with Michael Arad, a former student of The American School Foundation in Mexico City, (what were the odds!) and I just – it is hard to describe the emptiness and desolation I still felt all these years and it still gutted me as we made our way through other’s lives in the museum.

Fast forward to today, 2021. Friday morning, rushing around, and thanks to a very – on-the- hour-acceptance of funds and a very very quick planning session for setting up a 9/11 Walking Gallery Tour project at our Woodbridge High School 9/11 was revisited again.

Thanks to Governor John Carney, Volunteer Delaware, WHS PASE, WHS maintenance and administration, Gary and Holly Focht, Ms Pisciotta, Ms. Zanowic, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and the National Endowment for the Arts for making this possible! More to come with this exhibit!

I still found myself carrying the events of 9/11 with me ALL THESE YEARS. What does that mean? What legacy has this tragedy instilled in me along this journey? These are questions I continue to ask myself, and at times I feel responsible for living a life that could represent hundreds of others that wish they could live that life that they wanted. This seems to be alot of pressure to think about our actions, how we treat others, and what we do with the time we have around us. So I try to make the most of this time for others.

Being given the information of the Hispanic Heritage celebration in Seaford, and then receiving an instant message this very night from a former colleague, FROM MEXICO City that was the very school we both worked at and she is now here, and having all the above mentioned experiences, recordings, interviews, and more – leading to even how this still is a part of me, and so many others, is this coincidence?

As we walked around the Hispanic Heritage Month Festival today, it was ironic. I remember being in neighborhoods that no one except locals would go in Mexico and being welcomed whole heartedly, and comparing to walking during the festival today and being welcomed from members of the Honduran, Mexican, Guatemalan, and other communities, I wished so much that I could have had more friends from my own country take in this amazing experience and feel – that put me back on the streets of Mexico in just a few minutes. Hearing from my friend and colleague unexpectedly, and in Delaware on the same day/ evening as well? Not sure how to explain how unlikely it all seemed and the realization of how all we live our lives comes full circle.

Listening to NPR the other day, the ironic topic of Latin America and lost identification connected to 9/11, bordering on the very topic I had been searching for connected to 9/11 years before, right in my lap.

The thing with the term full circle is you never know how what you do now, the acts of kindness, the moments you sacrifice to support another, you NEVER KNOW if you will get another chance, if you will see someone 10 years from now that will change your life, and so on. There is so much that could be considered coincidental, that certainly might not be, but the continued depth of the 9/11 day continues to resurface in the many lives that have touched me and continue to help make positive changes that can change others lives around me.


About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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