As I was preparing my lesson for tomorrow, I was reminded that my students were not born when the events of 9/11 forever changed how I (and likely many others) view the world. I am not the only one who likely struggles when watching the video clips, reading the first-hand accounts, or viewing the still photographs from that day. In fact, I found myself in tears today as I compiled some resources for my 9/11 collection in Wakelet. It was surprising to me just how powerful imagery is and how easy it is to slip back in time to the morning of September 11, 2001.
Living on the West Coast, I was up early getting ready for work when my landline rang. Nobody in their right mind would call me at 6:20AM PST unless something was wrong. When I picked up the phone, I heard my dad quietly ask, “Have you see the news?”
“No,” I answered.
“Turn on the TV,” he said.
And so I did.
To my horror, I could not believe what I was seeing on the screen. My dad and I watched in silence, him from his house and me from mine.
It was eerie. All I wanted to do was run to his house because I knew I would feel safer just being in his presence. But I couldn’t because I knew that in two short hours, I was going to have 35 seventh graders waiting for me outside of my classroom.
I hung up with my dad and proceeded to get to work.
It was a surreal day. Many teachers were visibly upset, and some were outright crying. All I could think about was, “What am I going to tell my students?”
I had no answers. No one did.
Flash forward to today.
My students have no first-hand knowledge of 9/11 other than what they’ve heard from their parents, seen on the news, or gathered from social media. Thus, my goal for tomorrow is to share the events of 9/11, the personal stories of the unsung heroes and the innocent people whose lives were tragically marred or taken that day. I know from past experience that my students have family members who joined our armed forces because of the events of 9/11…so even though they may not have been born to see the events first-hand, they do have a personal connection through their loved ones.
Developing historical empathy has been a theme of mine for many years now. So tomorrow, I’m going to show video clips and still images as well as share first-hand excerpts from kids their age all in the hopes that they will gain a better understanding of the impact of 9/11 on those who lived through and witnessed those events. My story of that day isn’t important. What’s important is that we do not forget the thousands of people who died that day. It’s their stories that need to be told. It is their stories that need to be remembered.