Two years ago I sat in my AP United States History class learning how and why America became what it is today. Every week we would go home and read a chapter of our book over the weekend but one week towards the end of the year, it felt a little bit different. After not thinking much about it then, I realize now why it felt different. I had been alive starting in that chapter. I was a part of that “history”. I’m not saying that my fetus self had a large impact on Y2K or anything but I was there with my family. I think everyone in my class knew something was different about what we were now learning. This really sunk in when we read the section on September 11, 2001.
We read a very factual passage on the events of what is now 15 years ago today. The number of people who died, where the planes hit, who was responsible, and a whole lot of facts and figures. But after that, we shared where we were and our own story. I told my classmates about how it was the first and only time my grandparents from Sri Lanka had left their country and come to America and also the day they were set to leave. Although these stories had been passed down from our parents, they held stature for each of us. This year marks the first year that high school freshman will not have been alive during the events of September 11, 2001 and I believe this means the art of teaching comes with a newfound responsibility.
Teachers today, young and old, remember where they were on that day and have their story, but now their students don’t. 9/11 became the largest terrorist attack in the history of the United States, losing many of our people. It also set in motion a sense of unity amongst Americans to stay protected and stop terrorism. This event is still more than facts and figures and as we continue to move forward in time it is important that we preserve its authenticity as we teach our future generations.
September 11, 2001 is a huge part of American history that can and should be taught to students, however it should be done so with a sense of reality. It’s important that students understand the impact the events had on our nation and their own parents and family and continue to pass on its actuality and significance. As students didn’t live through the events we must ensure it is taught with emotion and not so much with numbers.