This coming Sunday will mark the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. This will, without doubt, be a difficult day for many. Ten years is a long time, and yet it feels like just yesterday when I received the note handed to me while teaching that alerted to me of the tragedies taking place that fateful day. I still have that note. Every once in a while, I take it out and re-read it. It immediately transports me back to that horrible day and propels me into deep reflection.
This past summer was the first time I visited New York since 9/11 had happened. My family and I went down to Ground Zero and viewed the rebuilding and watched the cranes and workers finishing up the memorial that will open this week. We went to the FDNY Memorial Wall. It was a very somber and profound experience. Very emotional.
My daughter was 3 years old when 9/11 occurred. She has no memory of the actual events except of what she's been told and learned later in her life. Many of our high school and even middle school students in our schools will have clear memories of the day. In the coming days, we will be bombarded with images, video, and recordings from the event in the media. These images will undoubtedly permeate our classroom walls, even at our younger grades. Schools, teachers, parents, and communities will approach the anniversary in different ways. Some will incorporate this historical moment through curriculum, discussion, and commemorative events. Others may choose not to. People will find the approach to marking the anniversary in the way that works best for them.
When 9/11 occurred, my wife and I did not have television. We missed all of the images that most of the world watched for days, weeks, months. In some ways, I feel fortunate to have only text (newspapers) and audio (radio) to inform me of the events, and wasn't bombarded with the terrible images over and over again. However, in following years, I have felt the need to go and witness the images and even video from the day that have been archived on the Internet. I'm not entirely sure why I've needed to do this, but I do believe it is part of my own reckoning with this moment in history that has in many ways defined an integral part of our personal, national, and global identity.
You may have students who feel the need to do the same examination, or who seek guidance in educating themselves further about 9/11 due to the anniversary. It is my strong opinion that curriculum, discussions, or any study of 9/11 brought into the classroom should be well thought out in advance, with sensitivity to many issues such as age group, community needs, parental wishes, religious and political beliefs, etc. As stated above: this anniversary will be very difficult for many.
Parents and students may approach schools and teachers for tools to further understand and commemorate the event. There are many resources available electronically.
One of my favorite endeavors is Scholastic's "I Will" 9/11 Tribute Movement (opens in new tab). The intent is to mark the anniversary by making it "the single largest day of charitable service in history." Many resources and lesson plans can be found at the site.
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum has an extensive online site, offering interactive timelines, webcasts, lesson plans and even a virtual tour of the memorial. They provide an excellent handout on "Talking to Your Children About 9/11." They also have several iPhone/iPad apps dedicated to 9/11 and the Memorial. Older students may want to include their stories, photos, or video in the "Making History" interactive, collective section of the site.
The National Association of School Psychologists offers resources "to support parents, educators, and other caregivers helping children understand the many facets of the 10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001."
The World Trade Center Tribute Site offers an educational toolkit for grades 5-12, including a teacher's guide and learning standards to use with included oral histories.
I would be remiss if I were to leave out the collection housed at the Internet Archive: "Understanding 9/11A Television News Archive" which offers up over "3000 hours of television from 20 channels over 7 days" documenting both national and international television coverage. I am by no means recommending its inclusion in resources for students, but rather to note the unprecedented breadth of information available to us due to technological advancements. The sites listed above ---as well as my own thoughts about revisiting this difficult history through education--- barely scratch the surface of this topic.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below about how best to explore this anniversary in education, as well as any sites/resources you have found that would benefit students, families, and community.