Most students in school today have few memories of September 11, 2001 — a day with so much significance for the adults in their lives. Educators frequently struggle with how much is appropriate to say at what age, and how to frame a discussion when the painful memories still feel so fresh to many of us.
Colette Marie Bennett, the English Department Chair at Wamogo High School in Region 6, tells a story familiar to many in Connecticut.
Twelve years ago, I was teaching my Advanced Placement English class when word came that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. Several hours later, all classes were abandoned in the high school. A line of students formed in the office in order to call and know if family members who worked in NYC were okay. Our school media specialist hooked up televisions around the walls of the library, and students sat on the floor in the middle; everyone was silent and somber. Teachers and students mingled together, some with arms around each other, watching the catastrophic events on that beautiful September morning when the blue skies belied the carnage happening less than 100 miles away.
But the events that seem so recent to adults are in the distant past as far as many young people are concerned. Minnesota teacher Ira Sanders writes,
I was a commodities trader in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, and survived the attack on the World Trade Center. So on 9/11 every year, I tell my students what that day was like for me — from waking up, to seeing people jumping to their deaths from the stricken towers, to me running from fear and into confusion.
9/11 left many in Connecticut facing enormous loss, and for children who were personally affected by the tragedy the teaching challenges are of an entirely different nature. Jacoba Urist, a resident of lower Manhattan, is raising her young son in an environment where reminders of 9/11 are a constant in his life.
While the rest of the country marks September 11 in remembrances and tribute, for children living in lower Manhattan, it’s a calendar day not unlike every other day.
That tragic morning and loss of life is something that families who live here grapple with all the time. And striking the right balance between honoring those who were lost, answering our children’s questions appropriately, and ensuring that they always feel safe in their daily lives is an ongoing challenge.
What are your memories of September 11, 2001? What do you tell your students and/or your own children about that day?