Do you remember what happened at 8:46 AM New York Time on September 11, 2011? It’s one I’ll never forget. I was in high school at the time in a career exploration class (wearing a New York skyline shirt) and our teacher turned on the television to show us what was happening. It was both shocking and surreal. Many emotions ran through my mind as we stopped the lesson and began focusing on what the events surrounding that day really meant for our lives and for those behind us. Fast forward several years and we are still living with the consequences that resulted from the events in New York, at the Pentagon, and on United Flight 93. Many of the youth in our schools were either too young to remember or not even born yet, so how do we teach about such a tragic event in our nation’s history? Here’s three ideas you can try during this week:
- Engage in a discussion about terrorism and how it shapes our culture today. Are we more or less safe? Have there been any attacks on Americans since? How do you guard against bias based on the facts surrounding these events? Research and dialog about topics such as these, then turn it into a presentation on how this event (and others like it) impacted the current generation and those living during the time 9-11 happened.
- Have a Day of Remembrance, when you honor a veteran serving (or who served) during the conflicts resulting from 9-11 and have a fundraiser that coincides with climbing 110 stories worth of stairs (going up or down the stairs 110 times)–the same height of the former Twin Tower buildings. Donate the funds to a local or state organization who helps provide care for the first responders affected or assistance to the families who lost a loved one during this time.
- Visit the nearest memorial and seek out a first responder who either participated during the event or knows someone who was lost during that time. Many first responders from across the country came to help with the rescue and recovery efforts, with some losing their lives in the process. Listening to someone willing to share their story, seeing the magnitude of what happened by looking at the warped metal or debris, and learning more about who from your city, county, or state died as a result of this event provides an intimate, personal experience to a generation not present during the time these events took place.
As you approach this topic, remember that a range of emotions may come out as a result. Keep in mind the age as you talk about the events surrounding that day, especially the official causes found at the time and currently for 9-11, as some information may be tough for younger children. May we never forget the sacrifices made on our behalf and instill in our students the same degree of gratitude and respect.