Tomorrow, The Herald’s Chelsea Kellner will have a feature on how teachers (high school and elementary) teach 9/11 to their students these days.
You must understand, even if it seems like yesterday to us, Sept. 11, 2001, was seven years ago. For a freshman in high school, that means they were in second grade. For a sixth-grader, they were 3 or 4 years old at the time. To them, Sept. 11, isn’t part of their memory … it’s something in their history books.
I will never fully understand the shock and fear that gripped America after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. My mom was 7 years old at the time and attending elementary school in Irving, Tx., just minutes from Dealy Plaza in Dallas, where Kennedy was killed. She remembers the day well, mostly the reactions of her teacher and parents.
I had a similar elementary school experience when our class watched the Space Shuttle Challenger blow up on live television. I, too, remember my teacher’s response (she cried) and the confusion amongst the students at the time (I was 9 years old and in the fourth grade in Atlanta, Ga., at the time).
But I was 25 and a sports writer on Sept. 11, 2001, and not only do I remember the day itself, I remember the fear even I had for the days that followed. I remember the uneasiness when I heard a plane fly overhead in the days that followed … I remember wondering if I would be drafted for a war … I remember being glued to the television in my little apartment for a week straight. I covered high school football games in the weeks that followed, and I remember the typically raucous Texas crowds were somewhat subdued … even though life was slowly moving on.
I am not sure how history teachers (many of them in college or just starting out when this happened) can explain Sept. 11 to their students. It’s one of those lessons that takes more than simply reading from a history book … there are several riveting documentaries and shows on the History Channel and Discovery Channel that give a really good depiction of the nation’s fear that day.
If I had any advice for history teachers planning on talking 9-11 tomorrow, I say talk about how it affected your life … just keep you political opinions out of it. I know a lot of people want to “spin” it one way or another, but it’s not necessary, especially for kids who don’t care about politics yet.