As befits a day of remembrance, it feels appropriate to not only think about what we lost on 9/11, but what I learned.

I was teaching in New York City that day, so 9/11 is and always will be an intensely personal memory for me. But today, I want to focus on one lesson I learned.

As parents came to my school from downtown, covered in soot and ash, they only wanted to have their child in their arms. When the planes hit the towers, it was as if a homing beacon went off in their heads, and the only thing that matter to them was being with their child. Parents didn’t stop to wipe off their face; they just started walking. You could look at them and see it in their eyes, “If I can get my child in my arms, it’s going to be o.k.”

That day completely changed how I understood the parent-child relationship. Jakob and Theo weren’t around yet, so I only understood parenting from the perspective of a teacher. So for me, it deepened my understanding of the deeply visceral nature of parenting, and that – along with being a parent myself – deeply informs the way I do my job. After 9/11, I can never look at the concern or fear or love in a parent’s eyes and underestimate how deeply that parent is feeling that emotion.

That’s how I make sense of 9/11 and how I try to take something from that day that allows me to move forward.