I loved having a first hour prep period. My team always met 1st period near the guidance office, and we would hash through the issues that needed hashing – who was doing what that day, what we wanted to do the next day, etc. I was supposed to be conducting a writing test that all other 9th graders were to take, and I remember that I thought it was a stupid test – that we could do better. But, I was planning on going along with it.
Someone near us said something like, “Whoa. A plane just flew into one of the World Trade Center towers?”
At the time, there were no TVs accessible in the building without a MacGyver-esque arrangement of an antenna, a coat hanger and a lunch tray. We tried to get online, but it was impossible to find any information or to get pages to load (dial-up). Some other teacher in the area located a radio – not even a boombox – and about 8 of us gathered around it, depression-era style, and listened to NPR as the second plane hit. I remember feeling like this was so surreal, strange, and otherworldly. How careless, was my first thought – who taught those folks how to fly? Then someone on the radio said something about other planes. That it was clear that it was an attack. Words like “threat” and “terrorism,” “high alert” and “security.” Two additional planes. Were there more? Was the whole system hijacked? Are they coming to the Mall of America to take that out, too? What is going on?
Then, the bell rang. We’re off.
That day was incredible. I couldn’t ignore what was happening, and my teammates couldn’t, either. There were students in our classroom whose parents were flying that day to NY, who were flying, period. People in our community who were supposed to be there – moms, dads, wives, husbands…no one knew anything for a long time. I’ve mentioned this before, but my teammate, a social studies teacher, jumped in the ring with a ton of information on his class on the Middle East – he deconstructed what terrorist cells were, and how they operated, and every student in our class left knowing more than when they came in. The teacher next door asked me how the writing test was going. I looked at her in what must have been complete disbelief and told her that there was no way that was going to happen that day.
As time passed beyond that day, we recognized September 11 as a national memory, processing it with discussions of belief, politics, and fear. Some years in the last ten, we didn’t even spend a lot of time on it – mentioning it as an event, referring to it in class, but not a complete lesson devoted to it. Then a different teacher came into my team, and wanted to show a video called something like, “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero,” so we did. Many kids hid their faces. Some cried. We talked about it later, and realized – they don’t know any of this – they were too young. For some of the students, this was the first time they had seen any of the footage, heard any of the distress calls.
10 years later, we are a different nation in many ways. The media coverage of everything from Libya to the Kardashians is pervasive and almost unavoidable. As educators and advocates of children, how do we address this pivotal event? To what extent do we do so, and on what levels? I don’t have these answers, but I wanted to provide some wonderful links to curriculum that may help.
- Curricula co-authored by one of the many widows of 9/11: http://www.state.nj.us/education/holocaust/911/k12curr.pdf
- History Channel: http://www.history.com/shows/classroom
Good luck with this important and delicate task. Let us know how (if) you plan to address the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.