A hand at my arm. Beth and the others stand looking at me with red-rimmed eyes. Some of them bleed from tiny cuts on their head. I go to the whiteboard and grab a marker and write, Can anyone hear? They shake their heads. Lips quiver. Some cry and lean on shoulders. Each of them have eyes the size of silver dollars, looking at me, their teacher. I’m supposed to know what to do. I write, Stay here. Don’t leave.
In the hallway I find Gary and a handful of other faculty. A few students run to us from the opposite end of the corridor. Frantically, they beckon us to follow. In their classroom, the first thing I see is bright red blood. It pools on the white tile floor. Robert. Just last night we’d tossed a couple back and watched the game. Gary and I look at each other and bend over the body of our colleague. I push my hand against his loose skin and feel no pulse. My hand goes to his chest and feels the quiet. On the board I write, Everyone to the gym.
The message spreads around the school and we gather. What would be the sound of anxious murmuring, or the shuffle of feet as people find a place to sit, is stillness. Silence that terrifies more than it comforts. As the last of the students are settled in, the principal sets up an overhead projector in order to address the masses. Gary and I go outside and he hands me a cigarette. I take it. Light it. I should be hearing sirens. I should be hearing screams. Instead, I see the first of the bombers as they cut through the sky.