On this day fifteen years ago, the face of America was changed forever with the attacks on America. This last Friday I did my 9/11 presentation for my sixth graders, most who were born around 2006. Only a few of them had any information about that day. I had two students whose parents lived in some part of New York at the time and had shared info with them. I had one student who lost an uncle in one of the towers.
I had three administrators and a few of he teachers come in throughout the day to sit through my presentation. We started off talking about what freedom is and isn't. Then we talked about positive and negative characteristics in people such as tolerance - intolerance, love - hatred. I had a list of them and asked students what was significant about them. They realized they were opposites and the list on the left was positive and what we wanted to see in people and the list on the right was negative and what we saw in the terrorists that day.
I was careful with the pictures I showed them. I showed them what the Towers, Pentagon, and flight 93 looked like before they were hit and then afterwards. My husband, daughter and I were in New York City ten months after 9/11. One of the first things we did was visit the Intrepid Museum. They had set up a makeshift memorial inside. I showed a timeline to the students of that event from pictures I had taken at that memorial. I showed them pictures of Ground Zero I had taken. We talked about the memorials that people created. Finally I told them of the personal connections I had to that day. I first learned about the events from one of my students who came running into the school pounding on my hall doors screaming my name. She was in a panic. Since my daughter danced with her I assumed something terrible had happened to her parents. I let her in and she shot past me running to my room to turn on the TV. She and her family had been in NY with our principal and his family just a few months before and had been at the top of the Towers. We ran up the hallway and told another teacher to turn on his TV and then ran and told the principal. Our principal made us leave the TVs on all day long. We had block scheduling, so that meant I had sixth graders first thing for ninety minutes. We sat and talked and about what we were seeing. I tried to reassure them that everything was okay when I didn't know if it was. They started talking about what they would do if they were in the Towers. That made me wonder what would happen if three teens found themselves in the Twin Towers on 9/11. That was what sparked the idea for my book Steps to Courage.
I want my students to understand that fear, hatred and bigotry are just a few of the things that prompted these attacks. I also wanted them to see that we as Americans join together to show compassion during a time of adversity. Those of us who lived through that day will always remember. May we all remember those who lost their lives on that day.
I have included the powerpoint I showed to my students.