Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thinking of you

In 1998, I was starting my second year of teaching fourth grade at Gateway Academy on Staten Island in New York City. I had begged God all summer to find me a different job because I was convinced that I STUNK at this job. But God apparently had other ideas and so I reported for duty feeling less bouyant than I probably should have. Among my students was a new girl, Victoria Giordano, who was pretty and timid and all new to private school. The work was tedious for her...we plowed through 8 subjects in about 6 hours with a couple of specials thrown in. (Why didn't I do a module style I wonder? ) One of those subjects was Bible, which I did thoroughly enjoy teaching, and we were required to teach it first thing every morning.

About half way through the year, Robb and I took a position at a church outside of Boston and I began training my replacement. The week before I left, Victoria asked me to talk to her in the hallway after Bible class.
"Mrs. Ryerse, I want to ask Jesus into my heart."
For some reason I don't remember now, we were interrupted and I had to leave at that moment. So I told her we would talk later.

I recall mentioning her desire during our teachers meeting later, and my principal was so upset with me..."She could be in a car accident tonight!" She mused. I took her fear seriously knowing her theological bent was one that led to such anxiety, but I also knew that God was working in Victoria's heart and He wasn't going to allow any such thing to happen...I was not worried.

So the next morning-with no car wreck the night before-I did pray with her and she did have that transformed, beaming moment that you live to witness.

And a few days later, I left Gateway Academy for my next big adventure.


Three years later, I was holding a very tiny and cranky Calvin who was just 6 weeks old, making cereal for Mattie, not yet 2, while Robb got ready for work in our creaky, drafty old rental house on Jeffrey Street in Michigan. I recall Robb yelling to me from our upstairs bedroom, where he had the TV on.

Robb sobbed as the towers fell down, but I could not take it in. I just stood there in my ratty green robe, clutching a fussy Calvin, like a very dull statue. When Robb came to himself, he said, "I have to go there. I have to do something to help." And he did. He filled a van with cases of water and he and a deacon from church drove off to deliver it where ever it was needed. I was terrified I would never see him again...I felt so weak and useless. I went to church and put the flag out front of the building and just waited.

He came back with news. They delivered the water to the landfill on Staten Island where the wreckage was being raked for human remains. He had heard many stories of people we knew that were late to work that day and weren't in the towers...but many were not spared. Including Victoria's dad, Jeffery, a decorated fireman who was among the first responders.

I met her father just once. He was very quiet and polite and wore a crisp blue shirt. He is the only person I personally knew who was killed on September 11, and so on this day, I always think of the Giordano family and of Victoria and her small prayer. She must be about 18 now and starting college this year. I pray for her. I try to have the same confidence in God and his work in Victoria's life as I had when she first experienced it.


Heidi said...

Thank you...that was very touching

Sara said...

I'm sure that God is working in her life even now...

Amy said...

Why does it seem so long ago, already and also like New York is so far away?

I didn't know anyone personally that perished during the 9-11 attacks and this helped to make me feel connected to all those strangers again.

Thanks, Ness.

dansdesk said...

Very touching indeed. Thanks for sharing!

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