In my 8th grade class we spent a little time today discussing the events of September 11, 2001, a day on which none of them were any older than 2. I led off by asking what they knew, only to discover some of them had their facts wrong: “Some terrorists blew up the Twin Towers.” “A couple of terrorists crashed their planes into the Twin Towers.” A few of them knew the correct story, and most of them knew that the Pentagon was hit and another plane “crashed somewhere else.”
As I described my experiences that day, I strove to get them to feel what I felt – the fear, the uncertainty, the disbelief. They were attentive, listening closely and asking good questions throughout, and I could see understanding dawning in some of their faces, especially when I pointed out that we didn’t know for days – weeks, really – where the next target might be. I also described for them the eeriness of having no airplanes fly overhead for three days, as well as the wave of patriotism that swept the country.
But I know they don’t really grasp the significance of “9/11,” nor how it turned the world upside down for most of us who experienced it. It was the same when I was their age and my mom would try to tell me about December 7, 1941. It wasn’t until the events of September 11 took place that I could fully understand what our country went through when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
It’s a little disappointing that I can’t make my students comprehend on an emotional level what that day was like for me, but I have to admit – my prayer is that they never find out from firsthand experience.