Today is the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Like many school districts I’m sure, the county had us talk to students about the event. I do very little to commemorate the anniversary in my class for two reason: one, I’ve got so much to cover, so little time and too many tests to prepare my students for; and two, because I teach the “war on terror” next semester and I save the analysis, documents, and notes for that day. I usually get better, more interesting questions at that time because students have a basic understanding of U.S. History up to that point. That is not to say I do not totally participate in commemoration activities for the benefit of my students and school.
For the past two years, I have helped put up a 9/11 memorial wall with a co-teacher. The wall includes names, pictures, quotes, and missing person flyers from that tragic day. So today, as in the past, I began class by taking my students out to see the wall. I always go with them in case any of them have questions about content on the wall to further their understanding. When we return to class, I explain to my students why I won’t be covering much of the event on the anniversary (because we do next semester) but I do tell them if they are inspired to ask any questions, given that it’s the anniversary of 9/11, that I will gladly attempt to answer them. I’ve found that each year I get fewer and fewer questions. Today was somewhat different, but my students really just wanted to know about ISIS. I did receive a very general question; “What do you think about terrorism?” which prompted a five minute discussion before talking about the Roger Sherman’s “Great Compromise.”
At one point in each class, I took a survey of my students to see how many of them could actually remember 9/11. I asked how many of them remember where they were, or what they saw on that day. They were honest; they remembered very little. The most common memory was the reactions of their parents. Each year, fewer and fewer students have answers to this line of questioning. The students I teach currently were under the age of 3 in 2001. They have little to no memory of the event. On the other side of this coin, all of the students I teach live[d] in and are molded by the aftermath of 9/11; a generation of continuous, undeclared war and American exceptionalism. I found myself wondering today, what is the difference between this event and the Pearl Harbor to these kids? How long will older generations hold younger generations accountable for remembering 9/11? Will the remembrance change when another tragedy and/or crisis occurs which takes the place of 9/11? Finally, how long will Americans continue to use this event to justify imperialism and nation building?
at Dunkirk of 9/11.