9/11- ten years later, the work still matters

When I first heard about the attack on the World Trade Center, I had just walked into the E. Jackson Street office of the School Leadership Cooperative, a group that coordinated meetings, events, and other projects for groups that supported local school councils (LSCs).

The Coop’s executive director, Andy Wade, told me that there had been a hijacking and that Chicago was a potential target. It was about 9:30 central time and we knew very little more than that, but there was a sense that something terrible was happening.

We went into our meeting anyway. The people in the room were some of the best, smartest, most trustworthy allies PURE had –  Rene Heybach from the Coalition for the Homeless, Sarah VanderWicken from the Chicago Lawyers Committee, Andy, a few others (whose names, I apologize, I can’t call to mind). We called ourselves the School Code Warriors because we were working on ways to strengthen the LSC section of the school code to fix some of the language that was allowing Chicago Public Schools to undermine LSCs’ operations.

I remember thinking that, if we have to go, at least we’re here doing something that matters.

After the meeting, I walked back to the office. If you remember, it was a heartbreakingly beautiful day in Chicago, as it had been in New York City. The skies were that blue that only happens in the fall when the sun is slanted in a way that intensifies all colors — sky, flowers, leaves.

Back at the PURE office, my stalwart colleague, Johnny Holmes, had his little office TV tuned to the news (which, I guess, was on every channel). For the first time, I saw the footage of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers. We heard that there might be other hijacked planes, possibly heading for the Sears Tower or other Chicago targets. Our office was about four blocks from the Sears Tower. I used my administrative authority to call off the rest of the work day, but I was the only one who seemed rattled enough to go home.

I spent the rest of the day like most Americans – frozen in front of the TV, calling friends and family – my younger son, who had just started as a freshman at the University of Iowa, my college roommate who lived on 23rd Street in New York.

Ten years later, the Coop is closed, as are several of the other LSC support groups that were represented around the Coop table that day. But the fight for LSC rights goes on, as does the fight for an equal, quality education for all children. Everything that matters remains.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.