It was a week and a half after I returned from my 70/7000 trip and I will always remember how sunny that morning was. I walked into the office of my elementary school and saw my colleagues silently huddled around a TV. The images of the burning World Trade Towers were surreal but our feelings of fear and shock were overwhelmingly real.
I had promised my second grade class we would go to the village park to eat our lunch. My principal told me to keep the day as normal as possible and to go ahead with the plan. I watched these kids, many who were sons and daughters of The Army soldiers of nearby Fort Drum, laughing and enjoying a glorious fall day. I knew that they would learn the terrible news from their parents and their world, our world, would never be the same again.
I had started reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen to my class everyday since the first day of school. It is a story of a boy named Brian who became lost in the Canadian wilderness. It was a book about struggle, resilience, and perseverance and lent itself to wonderful insights and great lessons to discuss and learn.
“He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that–it didn’t work.”
Brian had “hope in his knowledge. Hope in the fact that he could learn and survive and take care of himself. Tough hope, he thought that night. I am full of tough hope.”
“Patience, he thought. So much of this was patience – waiting, and thinking and doing things right. So much of all this, so much of all living was patience and thinking.”
“You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.”
My students sat on the rug and as I read, the circle seemed to get tighter everyday as we all sat closer and closer to each other. Brian had learned about courage and hope. It saved him and he survived. It saved us, too.