A School Principal Looks Back to 9-11

Fri, Sep 11, 2015

Distance Learning, Uncategorized

by Dr. Charles W. Bindig

On September 11, 2001, I was the principal of an elementary school in Middletown Township, New Jersey that was three blocks from the Raritan Bay overlooking the Twin Towers. The community used to be part of the “Jersey Shore” prior to the construction of the Garden State Parkway, which eventually enabled tourists to access beaches further down the shore. The local Middletown beach was called “Ideal Beach” and little did I know that later in the day, hundreds of people would be assembled on that beach in utter silence gazing upon the destruction across the bay.
My school secretary came into my office and told me that her husband had just heard on the TV that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, and I immediately accessed CNN on the computer and the guidance counselor turned on a local TV channel. Shortly internet access was gone and we were following the events on the radio.
As an elementary school principal, your first instinct is to maintain a sense of calm, and I devised a plan whereby the guidance counselor and I would personally talk to each individual teacher and assess whether they had a loved one in the towers, and whether they needed to make a call. We wanted to keep the information from the children in order to avoid stress, and that meant that no one would turn on the classroom TV. Early Childhood children have little knowledge of where their parents’ work and disclosure would be the last resort. I had no idea that by the end of the day 37 residents of Middletown would lose their lives in this tragedy. Middletown had the largest number of casualties in the terrorist attack.
It was not long before parents started to sign their children out of school, and by the end of the day, very few were left, since you only had to go down the street to view the disaster. We eventually told the children what had occurred in very general terms, and kept everyone inside, since who knew what would occur next.
At the end of the day I walked onto Ideal Beach and joined the hundreds who stood in utter silence watching the smoke billow from across the bay. The thick smoke would eventually float across the bay and encroach on the neighborhood. It was not until the next morning that the smoke left the neighborhood, and everyone awoke to the huge sense of loss.

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