Remembering September 11 with shoes

Shoe - 001

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September 11, 2001 was a horrible day.  I taught a class that morning, and, that evening, I waited tables at a Raleigh hotel.  Almost all of our guests were employees of the airline industry.  The event was heartbreaking, but it was also touching.  People took care of each other.  In the midst of tragedy, I saw hope.

This year, on the anniversary of 9/11, this is what I choose to remember:

I remember the men and women who deliberately crashed their plane in Pennsylvania so that it wouldn’t hit someplace more heavily populated.

I remember the firefighters, police, and rescue workers who ran towards the event, including those who had never worn a uniform.

I remember the people who lined up to give blood in the hopes that they could help anyone who survived.

I remember our Congress putting aside their differences and singing on the steps of the Capital.

I remember that for the next two weeks, complete strangers were carpooling with one another in order to get home.  There were no planes in the air, after all, and rental cars were hard to come by.

But most of all, I remember a story I heard almost two weeks after the event.  It was about shoe store near ground zero.  As women fled the towers, many of them lost (or kicked off) their less-than-functional work shoes.  This left them barefoot when they exited the towers, but the employees of this shoe store stood outside and handed people sneakers as they came running past.

This year, as we mark the 10th anniversary, I think I will honor the victims of 9/11 by following in the footsteps of the ground zero shoe store and its employees, whose names I have never learned.  I’ll be donating some shoes I have to those in need, and I hope you will join me by finding similar ways to remember not just those who died, but those who lived—and lived well—in the midst of tragedy.

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About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
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