Like most people old enough to be teaching, I remember exactly where I was when the twin towers were hit on 9/11/01. I remember spending the day watching everything happen on that horrible day, minute for minute. I remember walking around my university in a haze, unsure of what would happen next. I remember the guys I worked with in the tech support department of my university, many of whom were from the Middle East, wondering what would happen next for them. They were worried because in their countries, things like mobs, secret police, and people getting rounded up were not uncommon. I remember wondering how I would teach this to future students. Later that day, I told off a fellow student who was spreading rumors about the guys I worked with; it turns out this was my first teachable moment.
My students are all around 11 or 12 years old. That means they were toddlers when it happened. They don’t remember the attack on the towers or the Pentagon, or that field in Pennsylvania. They don’t remember not taking your shoes off at airports. For them, Osama Bin Laden has always existed in the forefront as public enemy number one, but they are not sure why. We have always been at war with someone.
Weekly Reader helped me start a conversation this week. My students got a feel for what it was like, got a feel for just how terrible it was, of how it changed everything. That led to talking about what has happened since.
The article led to me showing my students the great animations created by StoryCorps, a storytelling project from National Public Radio and the Library of Congress. Watching John and Joe, the story of a father and his two sons who died, my students got an idea of the human cost to families. StoryCorps has promised to collect at least one story from every person that died in the attacks. I look forward to the day I can view all of these stories and have my students listen to them. In the end, I think nobody can say it better than these storytellers recalling their family and friends.