Chapter One Claire My first thought is: My mother is dead. When Mrs. Shields, the school secretary, shows up so gravely in the doorway and gestures for Mrs. Otis to come over to her, I am sure that my mother has died, that I am now going to have to pack up my books and go to Sammy's school and collect him and tell him that Mom is dead and I'm all he has now and somehow we'll get by. I am so sure that something is wrong, incredibly wrong, and I can't imagine what else it could be. I am already gathering my books as Mrs. Shields whispers to Mrs. Otis. I see Mrs. Otis nod, distressed, and then Mrs. Shields disappears back into the hall. I sit up straighter, waiting for Mrs. Otis to look at me, to say my name. But instead she looks at all of us and says, "Class, a plane has hit the World Trade Center." Katie Johnson gasps. Other kids start talking. I am blank. And then Mrs. Otis asks, "Do any of you have parents working in the World Trade Center?" We look around. No. But Teresa says that Jill Breslin, who's in one of the other senior English classes, has a father who works there. I think of our apartment, only ten blocks away from the towers. I know my mother isn't home. I know she left with me and Sammy this morning and continued uptown to her office. But suddenly I'm wondering: What if she forgot something? What if she went back to the apartment? What if she took the subway down to Chambers Street, underneath the towers? I've gone from being sure she's dead to being unsure she's alive, and that's much scarier, because it almost feels rational. Mrs. Otis informed us on the first day of school that there would be no cell phone usage tolerated in class, but now it's the fifth day of school and there's nothing she can do. She's trying to hold it together, but she's as confused as we are. Cell phones are ringing, and all these kids are telling their parents they're okay, we're all okay--our school is a good thirty blocks north of the Trade Center. Abby Winter's mom starts telling her what the news is saying, and then she tells it to the rest of us: "The plane hit around the ninetieth floor. The building's still standing, and people are evacuating. Firemen are going up. The other tower looks like it's okay..." My friend Randy spots a TV in the back of the class, but when he tries it out, all we get is static. I know Randy has a phone and I ask him if I can use it. I try calling Mom's office, but nobody picks up. I leave a message on the answering machine, telling her I'm okay. The principal gets on the PA and says that all the classes have been informed of the "situation downtown," and that if there are any "concerned students," they should come to the guidance suite. We all know what he means by concerned students--he means if your parents are there. We're not a big school. There are only about seventy kids in each grade. So I can't help imagining Jill Breslin down there in the guidance office, and a few other kids. Teresa's getting frantic now, saying she has to go see Jill. And it's not even like they're best friends. Mrs. Otis tries to calm her down, saying the guidance counselors will take care of it. And I think that kind of makes sense, since the guidance counselors are adults, but it also doesn't, because even if Teresa isn't best friends with Jill, she definitely knows Jill more than any of the guidance counselors do. The thought of Jill Breslin in that guidance office makes me feel I should go to the lower school and see Sammy. I wonder if they've told the second graders what's happening, or if Mrs. Lawson is closing the blinds and giving them a spelling test. Suddenly there's this big scream from the classroom next to ours--at least ten people yelling out. Mrs. Otis goes to the door connecting her room to Mr. Baker's, and about half our class follows, so we're there when she asks Excerpted from Love Is the Higher Law by David Levithan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.