When I was a junior in high school, I watched United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 crash into the Twin Towers in New York. It was unexpected - and, as I stood in the school's library around the company of my peers, I saw tears in the eyes of my teachers.
This memory is so vivid. I sometimes think of it even when I don't intend to.
I also remember knowing that I would never know life as the adults around me that day had experienced. The world was changing rapidly, dramatically, and in ways that we didn't quite know.
I also remember that night. My parents were both home. My dad came home early from work and my three sisters were also home. It was the first time that we were all home at the same time in a long time. We ate a meal together. We watched the news together. We said goodnight to each other. I remember that.
After 9/11, I remember the patriotism. I had friends enlist in the army. Sports were cancelled for a little while and, on the night football started again, I sat in with the pep band. My house was near the park. We played, "America, The Beautiful" as the only song we played before leading the National Anthem. My mother didn't come to the game but she was outside when the band played that song and she tells me that she cried when we played it.
We had a prayer candle that we used to pray for those that died, those that survived, and the families that lost their loved ones. When I came home from the game, my mother had placed it on the front steps. She did it to show us that our prayers were rising up. I remember seeing the light bringing me home.
Our students are watching the world change around them right now. There is uncertainty. New routines will be established in the days and weeks ahead. At Marquette, we will assist as we are able - as educational leaders in our community. Instructions, lessons, and projects will be presented. We will also have opportunities for students to gather digitally with the purpose to learn, to discuss, to pray, and to share.
Parents suddenly have children at home - many still have job responsibilities, and there are concerns regarding bills and the economic implications, and we still may still be experiencing disappointment in the cancellations of the events all around us. Much more important than any of that - there are concerns for those that are most vulnerable and those in our families that are around the country and our world.
Teachers across our community are working diligently to organize opportunities for your children that will be designed to help students continue in their quest for learning - while not overwhelming families with monotonous homework and school tasks, while not tying students to screens for hours each day, and while maintaining equitable service to all students.
By now, you have probably also heard that all parishes in the Archdiocese of Dubuque will not celebrate Masses together. There will be opportunities to livestream Masses and the Rosary each week from the Archbishop; local prayer and Mass opportunities are also being developed. We know that many students will find peace and strength (and normalcy) in celebrating the Mass. For the faithful, I strongly urge the parents to be the example of faith and hope in your houses. There is a lot to do and there is even more to consider...
...but today, the best things you can do for your children is simply being with them. Play a board game, build with legos, go on a hike together, talk to them. Even high school students will enjoy throwing around a football in your yard or playing a game of 'horse' on the driveway hoop. Learn a new game with them - ask them how they are doing.
Through it all, please remember that our teachers are called to serve. It is in our blood. Please reach out if you should need anything at all during these days and weeks ahead. Our school communities are strong. Bellevue is home and we are in this together. Check on one another.
As it was in 2001 - when we watched the towers falls - from the embers we emerged as Americans. I have a sincere hope that we will rise from this situation with a deeper appreciation for the things that we too often took for granted. A handshake, personal interaction, stores with shelves that are full, sporting events, and so on. I also believe we will grow in our appreciation for the time we have with our own children.
We will eventually look back on these days and remember the laughter that was shared as a family as meals were eaten together. We will remember when we celebrated Masses on a Sunday morning in our own domestic churches. We will think back to the spring where we were able to watch our children grow.
Our children will also look back to these days. They will remember the candle that you lit as you prayed for those that are most affected. Eventually, we will return to school and to a life that will be much more similar to how we knew life a week ago - but, in the meantime, we all have an obligation to practice "Social Distancing," to help our children to practice "Social Distancing" with us, and to make the commitment to make our weeks ahead memorable for good reason too.
The sun will rise tomorrow.
Easter will be here soon enough and the Son will rise again.