9/11 is huge for the staff at School-Within-School. We are located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The staff, on that day, has memories of chaos and fear (from our 3rd floor windows, it looked like the capitol was on fire, because the smoke from the pentagon had billowed in alignment with this monument.) Because we have binoculars on our window ledges, this mirage was brought to us by a 5 year old who yelled out, “Mrs. Ricks, I think the Capitol is on fire!”
Parents came bursting in the school, in tears; the streets were filled with evacuated workers, while helicopters and snipers hovered close by.
I remember at this moment, coincidentally, we had gathered the children together, and they were all singing a Native American song, heya heyo, oblivious to the world changing around them.
In response, we created Kindness Day. In advance we have the Kindergarten children make a beaded bracelet for each new incoming child or staff member. They attach their name and symbol, and wrap the gift. On September 11th, we gather outside. The Pre-k Children make an inner circle and the Kindergarten children surround them.
Our music teacher, Rachel Cross plays the guitar, and we ask each pre-k child to turn and face a Kindergarten child. This year, the Kindergarten children sang, “I will be your friend.” Many pre-k’s sang along. If you are lost and you need a helping hand, come to me, I will be your friend…
Then, the moment they all were waiting for, Kindergarten children introduced themselves, and gave the handmade gift to the new friend in front of them.
Slowly the pre-K’s unwrapped their bracelets. Time almost stopped in this moment. Then the smiles glow.
After the ooohs and ahhhhs, they all joined in singing “Friends Friends 123, all my friends are here with me”. This year, we had the added joy of releasing 4 butterflies to fly off to Mexico. The children created butterflies by linking their thumbs and flapping their hands and chanted “Gotta go gotta go gotta go to Mexico.” The butterflies literally danced in spirals upward until they were invisible to the eye.
Every year, I wonder, will this feel old?
Every year it feels new and rich.
Every year I feel tears brimming in my eyes.
Every year, I am struck by the excitement the Kindergarteners hold in their hearts in anticipation as they watch their younger friends unwrap the bracelet.
The returning Kindergarteners are humbled by this important task. Alumni students now in middle or high school often remind me, that this event is one that stands as a special moment in their lives.
Our 9/11 Remembrance is not that of our students’ remembrance. For them, it is Kindness Day. Sharing in a community moment of creating, giving, receiving, song and release. Faces captured in a photo at the moment the butterflies reached for the heavens exemplify the spirit of the day. One that will hopefully be their memory of 9/11, a memory that circles and spirals, just like those Monarchs, and passed on, in kind.