I left my classroom during the break between classes and headed to a colleague’s door. We were chatting when another teacher stopped and asked, “Did you hear about the World Trade Center? A plane crashed into it.”
Hurrying back to my classroom, I switched on the television and as students entered the room, our attention was riveted to the live television coverage with reporters trying to figure out how a passenger jet could have mistakenly flown into one of those buildings. And then, as we watched–and I will always be haunted by the fact that I allowed those teenagers to view it as it happened–a second plane hit the second tower. They all turned to look at me, fear in their eyes, tears filling mine as I realized that people were dying as we watched. It was the day that changed not only our country, but our world, forever.
Those students are now adults; some of them have even served our country in the military as a direct result of the terrorist attacks of September 11. And like me, they all remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when it happened.
It’s hard to believe that a great many of our fellow Americans are too young to remember what happened September 11, 2001. Today’s nineteen-year-olds were only eight when we were attacked. Younger teens who were small children then may have been sheltered from the event by protective parents who did not want to alarm them.
That is why I feel it is vitally important that teachers take time from their regular curriculum to discuss what happened that day eleven years ago and how it affects us all. It doesn’t matter if you teach history or not; we are all Americans and this subject crosses all disciplines. It is our freedom that allows us to have an education in the first place, and it was our freedom that was attacked that day.
Since then, I have never failed to incorporate such a lesson every September 11. As a science teacher, I introduced the topic by asking students if they knew what happened on today’s date. I showed a short video to refresh their memories of the plane crashes. Then I would lead discussion, making sure students knew the who, where, when, how, and why (do WE even know that?) before leading them into a more scientific discussion of the exploding jet fuel, the weakened structure of the buildings, and the instant destruction of the planes. Students always had way more questions than we could discuss in one class period, so I urged them to bring it up at home with their parents after school.
I fear that the horror of the events of 9/11 will diminish as the years go by and fewer people are around who remember. Though I am not a great fan of today’s media, I do appreciate their airing of memorial services and programs. I pray that our young people will never forget the importance of this day, Patriot Day, and that they will write it on the hearts of their own children and grandchildren. Lest we forget. . .
|My son Matt and me at Battery Park, NYC in 2004 in front of the damaged World Trade Center globe|