We all remember where we were on this day 15 years ago. I myself was on my way to 7th grade. I remember distinctively hearing the news of the first plane crash before hopping in the van. When we arrived at school, every classroom was projecting the news. We sat there in English and then Social Studies watching as the horrific events unfolded. I remember watching as the second plane hit. I remember watching as people jumped from the buildings. I remember watching as the towers collapsed. Only after all of these events did the principal mandate all tvs turned off. Part of me wishes this had been sooner as these horrific images provided nightmares and have remained with me. Still, too, part of me is thankful that I was able to witness this historic day; it allowed the events to hold significance and create a connection.
Now as a teacher, I relive these events with my students. Last year was my first year teaching, and I was able to share with my 6th graders the events of September 11, 2001. Not only was I able to share the events from a historical perspective, but I was also able to share a firsthand account. None of my students were alive in 2001, and most had not yet fully understood this day’s significance.
I have come to realize that there are certain moments, both in life and in teaching, that stand out with great significance. This day is one of those days. My 7th grade memories hold personal meaning, while reliving the events through my students holds a new kind of meaning that only teachers understand. It is fascinating to see students’ responses. They have not experienced firsthand, and so rely on their teachers to give these events personal significance.
I now have a new memory of this day. I remember my students’ horrified faces as they watched the newscast I had seen 14 years prior. I remember their curiosity as they asked me questions about the day, about the war, about the terrorists. I remember reading their writings, infusing new personal connections to make this history come alive for them.
As teachers, it is important to bring history alive for our students. While this day is one of the most horrific days many of us have experience, our students have not and they will not understand its significance until we infuse our own connections, the impact the day had, and the overall significance.