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‘We drew our kids in and hoped for the best’

The morning was already tragic enough, Eddie Campbell Jr. remembered.

“Well, then we got the news of the plane going into The Pentagon,” he said, “and that changed everything.”

These days, Campbell is superintendent of Monongalia County’s school district.

On Sept. 11, 2001, however, he was only thinking about one school.

He was principal of Strasburg High, in Strasburg, Va., a small town tucked in the Shenandoah Valley, around 80 miles from Washington, D.C.

In that quadrant of The Commonwealth, and in all those cities and towns that spider-web out from the District, an 80 miles to and from work — is just that.

Another odometer day at the office.

Campbell knew that some of the kids in his school had moms and dads who made their paychecks from inside the Beltway.

He knew that some of them had moms and dads who worked at The Pentagon, even.

“We had to really start thinking about them,” he remembered.

“And everything was happening so fast.”

Including another development he initially didn’t know of that morning.

Another jetliner was in the sky.

One that made a sharp, abrupt change from its flight path to take an ominous trajectory — which was looking more and more like a fixed compass point to the nation’s capital.

Two decades and lots of students out from that day, Campbell can’t recall for sure if any students were impacted by the attack on the military complex.

He’s pretty sure there weren’t.

He’s definitely sure he didn’t spend much time at his desk thereafter.

“We went into crisis-mode,” he said.

“Things were hardly ‘normal,’ ” the-then principal said.

“But we still had to try to make it that way in the building.”

That meant conferring with every teacher.

That meant physical checks of every classroom.

That meant taking roll — taking it again — and cross-referencing those kids whose parents worked in D.C.

And teachers with televisions in their rooms were instructed to quell the news coverage, given the nature of the attacks and Strasburg’s relative geographic closeness to the center of American government.

“We drew our kids in and hoped for the best.”

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