By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
Teacher Bill Mitchell walked his social studies class through the history lesson that was unfolding before them on the television screen as school began at Baker Middle School this morning.
This is a one-of-a-kind event in American history, Mitchell told his classroom of seventh- and eighth-graders. You are in an historical moment.
The students watched silently as news of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was reported.
While news commentators compared todays tragedy to the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II, Mitchell explained the differences to the class.
This was an attack on civilians by a group not sponsored by a government, he said.
And while casualties at the World Trade Center could reach as high as 50,000, about 2,400 died at Pearl Harbor.
To Ally Munns question of whether there would be any survivors, Mitchell reminded his students of the stories of people who have survived other catostrophic events.
Troy Jeffery and other class members disagreed with Mitchells assessment that the attack was not motivated by another government. Troy speculated that the surprise attack on the United States might have been inflicted in preparation for a larger assault planned later.
I hope youre wrong, Troy, Mitchell said.
Me, too, the boy replied.
Sara Countryman echoed his concerns.
People have been saying this could be the start of World War III. Could that be true? she asked.
It is my feeling and my opinion that it is not sponsored by a government, Mitchell again told the class. I believe this is a very well-planned attack on the United States by terrorists.
Mitchell asked the class, most of whom said they had traveled by air, to consider how the planes might have been commandeered.
That led students to call for tighter security at airports and international borders to help avoid similar events in the future.
Mitchell encouraged his students to think of things that they and their community could do to stop future violent attacks on the country.
He offered comfort to the students and encouraged them to talk about their concerns.
Its important we dont run home and hide under the couch, he said. Perhaps thats what these people want us to do. The United States has never done that. I dont think these folks are going to get away with this.