Mr. Van Duzor was nearly as good at quoting The Simpsons as he was at teaching sixth grade science. At every opportunity he would rattle off a relevant—and sometimes not so relevant—quotation to illustrate his point, sometimes mimicking the sophisticated prattle of Kelsey Grammer’s Sideshow Bob and sometimes shouting “doh!” when he dropped a beaker. He showed us the clip of Lisa using operant conditioning on Bart and a hamster to demonstrate the scientific method.
He was standing against a backdrop of Simpsons characters when another teacher walked in and whispered something in his ear on the morning of September 11, 2001. When the door shut behind the other teacher and Mr. Van Duzor was alone with the class again, he spun on his heel and looked at the Simpsons poster on the wall behind him, his eyes traveling over the characters as his mouth worked silently. At last, he turned to face the class again.
“Something,” he began, glancing back at the poster, “something has happened.”
He walked across the room to the television and clicked it on. He flipped through the channels until the image of a pair of smoking towers filled the screen. As he crossed the room toward his desk, his eyes jumped back and forth from the towers to the cast of characters on the wall. He took a breath as he sat down, as if to speak, but shook his head in silence and gestured toward the television.
We spent the remainder of the class period watching the live news report, trying to comprehend what was happening on the screen. Every now and then one of us would look to Mr. Van Duzor, trying to find some answer in his eyes. Was this really happening, Mr. Van Duzor? Why would somebody do something so awful? What would come of this?
He remained silent.
When the bell rang and the period ended, Mr. Van Duzor’s eyes flickered across the poster one last time before he took a deep breath and finally found words.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”