Sometimes I think I don't say the right things.
After second period, one of my first period students comes into the classroom, saying that he forgot something. It's a plastic bag with something in it.
"Looks like it's still there," I say. "I didn't touch the thing."
"Might be dangerous, huh?" he asks.
"Sure," I say.
"Especially because today's Sept. 11," he says.
"Sure," I say. "Might be a bomb or something."
"Especially because I'm Muslim," he says.
"D'oh!" I walked into that one.
So, we don't really do too much to honor Sept. 11, although I notice on the official CPS calendar that today is called "Patriot Day." During division (now known as homeroom), a student reads a prepared statement about the day over the intercom, and then the school rings the bell several times, remembering those who died. My division students (homeroom students) stand respectfully during the bell-ringing and moment of silence. I'm at my computer, trying to enter attendance on our new system.
A girl comes over and asks if I have tissue or paper towels. She has tears streaming down her face.
"I know that I didn't know anyone in New York," she says, "but I was just remembering that day, and how I didn't know where my mom was, and I was just so scared."
"Do you ... do you want to sit down and talk about it?"
"No, I'll be fine." Then she tells me about some people she knew that did die.
"Listen, do you want me to go get your counselor so that you can talk to someone who knows what he's doing?"
"No, that's OK."
"Do you want to go get a drink of water?"
"No, I'm fine."
"How about some candy? Here, I got these at a Korean grocery store."
"Yeah!" she says, smiling.
She stops by again after school. "You feeling better?" I ask.
"Do you want to talk?"
"No, but can I have another one of those candies?"
We chat a little about how the candy gets stuck to your teeth if you try to chew it. You've got to let it melt. She's smiling. She's OK. On her way out, she walks over to me, leans over, and gives me a quick, little hug. "Thanks!" she says. "Thanks!" I say right back.
Everyone could probably use a hug today.