Lessons Learned from the NYC Teachers of 9/11: What to Do When There is an Emergency and Your Child is at School

On 9/11, about 9,000 school children were within the vicinity of the World Trade Center.

9,000 children who had just arrived for one of the first days of the new school year. 9,000 children who had waved goodbye to their moms and dads only minutes before. 9,000 children sitting at their desks as their teachers started the morning lessons.

9,000 children who heard the deafening sounds of planes slamming into skyscrapers. 9,000 children who experienced first hand the horror of the first tower falling, and then the second.

9,000 children whose schools were soon to be smothered in rising clouds of smoke and dust.

9,000 children…not a single one injured.

Thanks to to the quick thinking and dedication of their teachers, all of these children were safely evacuated.

The teachers kept in check their panic and overwhelming worry about the safety of their own children. They lined the children up and lead them out of the schools singing favorite songs to keep them calm. They walked (and sometimes ran) the children away from the fire, dust, soot, and falling bodies. They kept the children facing forward, to prevent them from seeing the horror behind them.

They walked and walked and walked until all of the children were in a safe place.

To quote one of these brave teachers, “The kids had faith in their teachers and knew their teachers were going to take care of them.”

Legally speaking, teachers owe a duty of care to their students, meaning that they have a duty to protect the children against foreseeable risks of personal injury or harm. The standard of care is that of a reasonably prudent parent.

The hero teachers of 9/11 certainly acted as if they were taking care of their own children. In fact, they willingly delayed their search for their own children. For all they knew in that moment, they were giving up saving their own children for the sake of their students.

And they did it. No hesitation.

I was 26 on 9/11. I was a young lawyer whose only responsibilities, apart from my 80-hour a week job, was a dog. While I certainly shared in the collective shock and grief following 9/11, I didn’t give much thought about what I would do in an emergency.

Seventeen years later, I am a 43 year old mother of four and I don’t have that luxury. What we should always remember about 9/11 is that terror and tragedy can strike anytime, anywhere. We need to be prepared.

What would I have done if my kids had been one of those 9,000? Would I have raced to their school? What if I couldn’t reach their school? Who would take care of them? How would I find them?

I’ve spent this 17th anniversary of 9/11 reading a great collection of essays written by those brave NYC teachers, Forever After: New York City Teachers on 9/11. You can find it on Amazon.

Here’s what I have learned. Hopefully your children will always have teachers as quick-thinking and dedicated as the NYC teachers (mine certainly do). If they don’t, look for a new school. Also, you need to think now about what would happen in the event an emergency happens when your children are at school.

In remembrance of 9/11, I am urging all parents to review their children’s school emergency procedures. You need to know that your children, like the 9,000 children near the World Trade Center, won’t be abandoned in the event of an emergency.

Who will be responsible for your child in an emergency (specifically, which teachers or staff are required to stay with the children until they are retrieved by their parents)? How will information be communicated to parents? Where will children be taken to in the event they need to be evacuated from the school? Take the time now to figure out exactly where the evacuation site is.

Make sure you have a list of people other than you or your spouse who can retrieve your children in an emergency. Make sure these people have been added to the list of persons authorized to pick up your children from school.

What would you do if there was an emergency and your children were at school? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

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