I watched the news before I left for class, and I walked to campus, convinced that the thing in New York was a freak accident.
By the time I got to the Student Union, the second plane had hit.
My professor did not cancel class.
He didn’t bring in a TV, and he didn’t change things in any way.
I didn’t understand it, then, but there it was. The old man said to sit, so we did. We sat in a basement room in the quiet of a half-drained university, and did what we always did. Half the class wasn’t there. The world was changing. History was being made.
We started the day with a quiz.
We started every day with a quiz.
I expected the old man to dismiss us after that. He didn’t.
That class was supposed to be an hour long, and by golly, it was an hour long. And he expected you to concentrate, too. What case? What case? What case?
After all, New York was hundreds of miles away, and there was nothing we could do. Nothing. As much as we would have wanted to, there wasn’t one single blanket for us to hand out. Not a single drop of water for us to offer.
My professor was old. Very old. Maybe he was the oldest man on campus. He was certainly the oldest man in our building.
He’d been through days like that before, in Europe, in the war. In other wars. Before he moved to the United States. I suspect he’d been through quite a lot of them.
Airplanes hit the Twin Towers, and he gave a quiz. It’s taken me time to understand why. It took me a lot of time to understand there was a why.
What he was saying is the world refuses to stop for terrorism.
I refuse to stop for terrorism. Some people do horrible, violent things. They do senseless things. They kill. They maim. They destroy.
I refuse to give them more. I refuse to give them anything. Not even one, single quiz.