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While the morning of my presentation about my experiences at the time of the April 19 terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City focuses on the immediate reaction to the horrendous attack, in the afternoon we attempt to focus on recovery and hope. When I finally opened the Hope Trunk, loaned to us by the Oklahoma City Museum and Memorial, we discovered a "treasure" of historical items. In another bag, we discovered toys and trinkets, also left on the fence, perhaps by children who have visited the site. Other bags included one with patches from various responding units from across the country, and fragments of the Murrah Building itself.
The experience made me a stronger, more confident teacher. I hope my Professional Biography is still true when it says the following:
Together, teachers, parents, and students worked through memorials, constant television coverage, fatality reports, and challenges of unprecedented proportion – all stemming from the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, and all under the watchful eyes of the media and the world.
Wrapping up my fifth year as a teacher in Oklahoma City, I was in the middle of a communication arts lesson with my second graders when we heard the guttural boom. When the rafters of our old schoolhouse rattled and groaned, students and teachers searched for answers. From our building, we saw the black plume of smoke from the truck bomb detonated just four and a half miles away. As the lead teacher with no principal in the building, I locked down our school and consoled teachers and parents. In the coming weeks, I became a better teacher and more compassionate person. That experience enriched my professional and personal life in unique ways.
Suddenly, I could point to an event that sent me down a new path as an educator.
Suddenly, I could appreciate my responsibility and influence in the lives of the people around me.
That summer, my wife and I moved to Joplin, Missouri, where she worked as a chemical engineer, and I became a teacher of fourth grade students. The years since our move have been the most rewarding of my professional life. I pursued and earned my Master’s degree and won a number of awards, but more importantly, with the newfound realization of my responsibility and influence, my teaching changed. Students react differently to me now. I am able to teach standard lessons in creative, captivating ways, with amazing results. I can do so with confidence, exuberance, and respect of peers, administrators, students, and parents.