I was just outside my classroom door after the lunch break when my mobile phone rang. While my class filed in and settled themselves, I took the call. It was Number One son, in the Guardian offices in London. He sounded incredulous, interested, sharing a story with me. There had been a freak accident - a small plane had flown into the World Trade Centre. Ignoramus that I was, I had to ask where exactly this was, had to be told that it consisted of two massive towers. Strange now, to think that I didn't know. As we spoke, he suddenly broke off. He was watching the live monitors in the newsroom, and there was another plane - surely not - yes, it too had flown into the second tower. I felt as if I was witnessing it myself, as I became aware that the second year pupils in front of me had stopped chatting, that the room had become silent, that they were all staring at me. I think my mouth was open in horror, and I don't think I was making much sense.
I can recall now how frustratingly hard it was to find out what exactly was happening; I took my class to the library for their scheduled book-changing/research period and told them to search, to see if they could find anything online about this unfolding horror. Meanwhile, I told the technician whose lair was close to my room to put on his television - one of the few in the school connected to an outside aerial. The pupils were finding out plenty about the WTC, but so far there was no real news - and they were as frustrated as I was.
By the time I reached the last period of the afternoon - a non-contact one for me - the technician's room was full of off-duty staff, all glued to the screen, all silent except for the odd gasp or oath. We saw the first tower fall, and then the second - in the wrong order, it seemed. Fear began to grow - would there be a war? A big one, involving everyone? Anything seemed possible.
I'm of an age to remember what I was doing when I heard Kennedy had been shot; this year is the first I have realised that that strangely live participation across half a world, a newsroom screen and a mobile phone is becoming similarly vivid. And these 13 year old kids who were in my room at the time it happened felt that they too had a tiny share in "being there" - it was one of the things several recalled when we've met since.
I would like not to be part of any more horror, no matter how distantly. Please?