The morning of Sept. 11, 2001 arrived with clear, blue skies. I was teaching junior English at Gunter High School.

Having begun class, I stepped into the hall to post our attendance roster and was greeted by our principal as I did. “A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center,” he said. “You may want to turn on your TV.”

Back in the room, I moved to our TV monitor and turned it on. My mostly 16-17 year old students and I were greeted, in real time, with a stunning image. It was the North Tower having just been struck by American Airlines Flight no. 11. The gash it created spanned floors 93-99 of the 110 story structure, with black smoke billowing out and bright orange flames flickering within. As helicopters circled overhead, newscasters and hastily assembled commentators attempted to make sense of it.

We were trying to make sense of it too. News that the flight had been hijacked made it obvious that the “in-flight disaster” was an act of terror on American soil. It was a realization repeatedly confirmed as we learned of the related events unfolding that day.

The South Tower was soon struck by United Airlines Flight no. 175;

Both towers collapsed, 29 minutes apart, as each floor shot downward onto the floors below in a straight trajectory creating massive heaps of dust and rubble below;

American Airlines Flight no. 77, crashed into the Pentagon, igniting a destructive and deadly fire;

United Airlines Flight no. 93, was commandeered by terrorists and redirected toward Washington D.C. When passengers realized what was occurring, several overtook the terrorists forcing the plane to crash into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania;

Seven World Trade Center, a 47-story building in the Trade Center complex, collapsed after exposure to intense heat and destructive debris.

The death toll reached 2,997, with over 6,000 injured. Additional deaths and illnesses from exposure to toxic materials unleashed on 911 and in the ensuing clean-up continue to mount.

My students from that day have all moved on to what I hope are satisfying and rewarding lives. It was a privilege to be with them on 9-11. I pray that we treasure the lives lost that day and the freedom we still share — always remembering the high cost it carries.

Happy birthday to Mildred Ferguson of Allen; Clifford Shaylen Cole and Melissa McCammack, both of Denison; Pam Roy, Robert Franklin and Toiya Parker, all of Sherman; Amy Shugart of Broken Bow, Oklahoma; Charla Dotson of Bonham; and Reba Thompson Franklin of Elm Grove, Louisiana.

Happy anniversary to Lukus and Kristy Pambou of Anna, 4 years.