I woke up at 4:30a to shower and get ready to fly to Washington, DC for the AFT TEACH conference. I got to the airport at 5:30a for a 7:30a flight, only to find that the flight was delayed until 8:05a.
I landed in DC around 10:30-ish and got an Uber to the hotel.
Once I got to the Washington Hilton, I checked-in and had just enough time to go to my room and freshen up before heading down to prepare for my session.
I was presenting with educators from Sandy Hook & Columbine. The panel consisted of me, Tom & Mark from Sandy Hook (Newtown, CT), and Kallie & Emily from Columbine (Douglas County, CO). I worked with Tom & Emily on the Student Gun Violence Summit in October 2018. It was nice to see them and meet Mark & Kallie, but it was also sad that we needed to lead this session at all.
The session was called Supporting Students & Community in the Fight Against Gun Violence. Attendance wasn’t as large as I’d thought it would be. I guess there were other sessions going on at the same time.
I spoke first. We decided to go from most recent to least recent, so after me went Sandy Hook and then Columbine. I shared my story from the day. I spoke about “Parkland Speaks” and took questions from the crowd. I’m sure there were things I left out, but I needed to share the time with others.
It was really interesting to hear from the others. Although I know what happened in both events, and I know people from both places, I’ve never really heard their stories. I listened, my heart going out to them. I was 19 when Columbine happened and I had a first-grade son when Sandy Hook happened, so that’s the lens I always use. I now look at their events as an adult – an adult who went through the same thing and had to keep students safe while worrying about my own family and safety.
Kallie said something that really stuck with me during her presentation. She said that she’s been telling her story for 20 years. It’s become a story and not a memory. She can tell it without getting emotional. I’ve never cried when telling my story. It always just seemed like it belonged to someone else and I was telling it for them. I always feel like I’m going through all of this in isolation, even though I know I’m not. It’s nice to know that what I’m experiencing, while abnormal to me, is normal in the world of gun violence survivors and trauma survivors.
During the panel, one of the women noted that this is the hotel where Brady & Reagan were shot. I sat there for a minute to process what I had just heard because I didn’t know that; it seems fitting that this is where I share my story.
One of the teachers in the session tweeted this during the session:
After the session, a teacher from another county in Florida came up to me to thank me for speaking to the group. She looked as though she’d teared up during while were presented. I told her that it’s part of my healing to speak, and thanked her for listening. I hope that something I said will go back to school with her, so that she and her students don’t have to go through what I did.
When it was all over, I was starving. I hadn’t eaten since the bagel I had at the airport at 6a. I walked a few blocks to Bareburger. I had an absolutely delicious veggie burger with sweet potato fries. I think I drank five gallons of water, because the heat in DC in July is no joke!
After lunch, I grabbed Starbucks and walked back to the hotel. I changed into my jammie jams (even though it was 4:30), and watched tv. I was so tired, I passed out at 6. I woke up around 9, watched a little Rachel Maddow, and was asleep for the night a little after 10.
I set my alarm for 7:30 to get ready for the day. I was meeting Kelly Booz from AFT for breakfast. She was the person who contacted me and coordinated the webinar I did for Share My Lesson a few months ago. We’ve talked, texted and emailed – we even saw each other on the webinar – but never met in person. We spoke about my session, all of the trips I had taken before coming to TEACH in DC. She said she’d be going to Alaska in a few weeks, so I shared about my trip in 2011. She’s a wonderful person; I’m so thankful to have been connected with her and the opportunities I’ve had with AFT.
After breakfast, we went down to the exhibit floor. Kelly got me an AFT tee, which I will happily add to all of my school shirts. She introduced me to some of her AFT SML team. She said they were all in her office with I did the webinar. They seemed starstruck, which was sweet but is always a little odd. I’m just a regular person who went through an extraordinary experience. They asked what my plans were for the rest of the day. I said that I was going to go blob while waiting to meet a friend. Then, one of the women offered me the change to blog for AFT. We exchanged cards, and I said I would love that!
I went up to the lobby and waited for my friend Dave. I met Dave in June 2018 when I spoke at the National Archives with my student, Rain. He came to our event and then gave us a tour of the Newseum. We’ve stayed in touch and became very fast friends.
He got to the hotel a little after 11 and we took an Uber to his apartment so I could drop off my luggage. We sat and talked for a bit before going to get lunch at Jaleo, a tapas restaurant connected to his building. From lunch, we took an Uber to the Newseum. Jim Acosta from CNN was speaking at 2:30 about his new book “Enemy of the People.”
The event was hosted by Julie Mason, from POTUS on SiriusXM. Since I went with Dave, I was able to get in with the “special guests,” and I sat three rows from the stage. Jim Acosta is SO handsome! I hung on every word he had to say. He is a true inspiration to current and aspiring journalists. He embodies what I teach my students to do – don’t take no for an answer, ask the difficult questions, get the story and cover it well.
After the event, I went to the gift shop to get a copy of the book. I waited in a very long line for Jim to sign it. One of the event organizers said this was the highest attendance they’ve had for an author, totaling around 500 people. When I got my book, there were only nine left.
When I got up to the table, I shook Jim’s hand. I told him I’m a huge fan, and admire all of the work he does. I also told him (as if it wasn’t clear from my shirt) that I teach at MSD. He asked what I taught, and I told him English, Intro to Journalism, and that I advise the yearbook. He then shook his head and sighed. He thanked me for what I do everyday. I told him that I used his issue in the press room as my entire lesson the next day. He signed my book, and then told me he loved my shirt. I told him I’d send him one – which I totally will when I get back to school.
After I was done gushing over Jim Acosta, I went to see the two newest exhibits. The Newseum will be closing its doors on December 31, and I don’t think I’ll be back before then. The building was purchased by Johns Hopkins University, so the Newseum will be planting roots elsewhere – date & location TBD.
I went to see “Seriously Funny,” an exhibit about “The Daily Show.” I saw *THE DESK* from the Jon Stewart years, Trever Noah’s suit, as well as a ton of other things. As a fan of the show from day one, it was pretty dope.
(I also need to know where I can get this exact framed print for my classroom…)
I then moved upstairs to “Rise Up,” the exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.
We left the Newseum shortly before they closed at 5 to head back to Dave’s apartment so I could grab my bags. The Metro is connected to his building from an underground walkway. The DC Metro is kind of dope.
We walked what felt like forever and hopped on the Metro. In less than one minute, we were at the airport. I checked in, only to find out that this flight was delayed, too. Once at the gate, I called my family and then got dinner. The flight left only 20 minutes after the original time, and we landed earlier than expected.
It was a quick trip, but a really great one! I always love being in DC.