SARASOTA, Fla. -- Many of us know where we were on 9/11 when the planes struck the Twin Towers. A group of Sarasota teachers can say they were with the President who was visiting their school that morning.
President George W. Bush learned about the attacks while sitting in a classroom at Emma E Booker Elementary.
“At this time 8:46 we reflect on 9/11. We’re going to observe a moment of silence for the lives affected on that day.”
It started out as a historical day for Emma E. Booker Elementary with the president visiting, but for different reasons.
“He was coming to listen to a group of second graders read a new reading program," Clesha Allen, a 5th-grade teacher said.
"The children were so excited to share with the president what they were learning," Makaya Moran said, “It was a sense of pride for our school.”
Speech pathologist Makaya Moran was one of a few picked to stand on stage with former President George W. Bush in the media center.
5th-grade teacher Clesha Allen was sitting in the second row waiting for the president, unaware of what was happening.
“When he came in, announced to the country what happened in NYC, all the adults were stunned," Allen added.
“I heard him say we were attacked by terrorists, that’s not vocabulary we were used to hearing. Terrorism-- a word we had to teach students,” Moran said.
When Allen returned to her classroom, she turned on her television.
“The first thing my students and I saw were the planes hitting the Twin Towers," Allen said. "Then you hear in every classroom intercom going off, parents pulling students out of school.”
Allen was left with five students, but one child asked a question that still saddens her today.
“One student said… Ms. Henry are we going to die? His fear was so palatable I didn’t know what to do. The teacher in me assured him I said no, we’re in the safest place, we have secret service. My most poignant memory left with me as a teacher. I was responsible for my kids’ security in that moment. I sympathize with the President in that that’s what he had to do for a nation. I had to do it for five kids, I had to do it for one. He had to do it for our entire country. I thank President Bush for the leadership he gave to us in that hour.”
The school has a cabinet filled with reminders of its place in history, including the book the president held while the kids read and a scrapbook. There’s even a plague outside classroom #301.
Allen says 9/11 changed her as a teacher.
“Soon after 9/11 each teacher decorated a tile," she said. "My tile said 'Better not Bitter'. No matter what you’ve gone through as an individual, together we are stronger. We are better together. We are America.”
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