A New Instructor in a College Classroom During 9-11-01, by JD Meyer

Everybody who was alive in America on 9-11-01 and the next day remembers what they were doing during that tragedy. My situation was unique as a brand-new White instructor at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities): Texas College of Tyler. I taught Developmental English. I used my own textbook (and kept adding to it) for the course, worked on a website, and tutored Spanish. The vast majority of profs at the small bachelor’s level liberal arts college had many courses to teach; some upper-division classes were taught only once every four semesters.

An older-than average lady student (future “A”) came to my door from the Developmental Reading instructor’s lobby and asserted, “Mr. Meyer, something really bad is happening. I think you should come look at the TV.” I told my class that I’d be right back, and they were working in the Writing lab anyway. Then I saw the shocking sight of the twin skyscrapers burning from the crashed jet. My initial reaction was shock through assuming pilot error–a dumb but very unintentional act. I quickly learned how wrong was my guess–something vastly worse: suicide terrorists.

The next day (Or was it two days later?), all of the staff tried to console our students. Yes, it was two days later; the college was closed the following day. I recalled which student I’d been talking with right before the crash. Several weeks later, I drove him to a local doctor for help with his sickle-cell anemia.

Then I apologized for my short-lived guess of pilot error. But my conclusion was that tragedy doesn’t always follow bad times. Tragedy can occur after what had been an average, good, or great day.

Nine-eleven will continue to be remembered much like December 7, 1941. Both days will “burn in infamy,” as Franklin D. Roosevelt lamented about the sneak attack that started USA participation in World War II