Thoughts – Teaching 9/11 To Students Who Were Born After the Attacks
I was fourteen years old when 9/11 happened. It was early in the morning in California. My father came and woke me up with a simple statement that had me moving faster than my teenage-self had likely ever risen before. “The United States is under attack.” When I got out of my room there was an image on the TV of a tower with flames and smoke coming out of it. A scene of the first plane hitting was replayed multiple times.
My family gathered in my parent’s room. We all sat down on their bed and watched the news. We watched the second plane hit. We watched the first tower fall. We watched people jumping trying to escape from the second building. We watched the second tower fall. Nobody spoke. You could have heard a pin drop in that room.
I think the first things we actually talked about was if we should still go to school. A conversation that I imagine happened in millions of homes around America. We tried to process what was going on and what that meant for us. We didn’t know if it was over. We didn’t know if the towers were an isolated event or if there were other attacks coming.
We wound up going to school. At school, every class had the news on and we were all watching. As the day went by more details about exactly what had happened came out. Phone calls made by people on the planes were shared. Stories from Americans who had escaped the towers. Faces of rescuers who had died attempting to save others were flashed across the screens at an ever-increasing pace.
It’s probably the only day in my life other than the birth of my daughter that I can recall so vividly. It didn’t matter that it happened in New York and I was in California. I felt no disconnect by the distance. We were just Americans that day. Harm had been done to us. None of the other stuff mattered. My home was hurting.
9/11 Shaped a huge part of my life. Going into the service was not even a thought in my mind before that day. After that day, it was a sure thing. Sitting here, writing this, and pushing the memories into the forefront of my mind makes my eyes water 16 years later. America is my home. I’ve lived all across it at this point. I love this place and the Americans that share it with me. Never forget.
When I teach my daughter about 9/11 that story is going to be what she hears. The “whos”, the “wheres”, and the “whys” are important questions and important to know. Things that I will discuss with her if her school wont. It’s not what the phrase “Never Forget” means to me though. Never forget that we are Americans. Never forget that when it matters, we hurt together. Never forget that when it matters, we weep together. Never forget that when it matters, we help together. Never forget that when it matters, we fight and bleed and die together. Our differences are many, but today we Never Forget.
Best of luck out there.
I’d love to hear your thoughts as well! Leave your comments below.
“Never forget” became a national rallying cry after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Yet America’s schools – where collective memory is shaped – are now full of students who never knew. Because they weren’t alive then. As such, many teachers struggle with whether and how to teach the attacks and their aftermath.