By Lynn Basko, MEd
Online Faculty, College of Education
No American who witnessed the events of Sept. 11, 2001, will ever forget it.
Personally, I remember getting ready for class – I was a college freshman – when my dad called me over to the TV. The news report was filled with black smoke, and I saw the enormous fire erupting in the tower where the first plane had hit the North Tower. We watched live as the second plane hit the South Tower.
We stood in horror seeing people running on the streets, covered in smoke, searching for loved ones. We listened as the reporter explained that first responders were arriving and making the long journey up the towers to rescue the people trapped in the wreckage. Within the next few hours, we watched as each tower tumbled to the ground, taking with them so many innocent victims and first responders.
For those of you who experienced this day, I know that you can pinpoint exactly where you were when it happened. You may have known someone who was in the twin towers that day. You may have been in an airplane that was grounded and trapped somewhere for a week or more before the planes were allowed to return to the air. Or you may be like me – an American who simply felt the pain and fear of this major attack on our soil.
However, these are not my only memories of September 2001. I remember the astonishing amount of help and support the people of New York City received from volunteers around the country. I remember walking outside and seeing the entire town covered in red, white and blue. I remember the comfort and support given to strangers just because people happened to see that they were upset. I remember hearing the story of the people in Flight 93, who we learned were able to overpower their hijackers and save numerous lives by sacrificing their own.
Fast forward to the fall 2006, my first year of being a full-time teacher. On Sept. 11, 2006, I spoke with my fifth graders about the events of 9/11. Many had been affected; many remembered it even though they had only been five or six years old at the time.
We discussed the facts and the reasons why these events occurred, but we also talked about what we should learn from these actions. We spoke about the heroes and how our country became a united community after the tragedy. We talked about how great our country is and how important it is to protect it.
Each consecutive year, I took the time to talk to my fifth graders about 9/11. Each year, the students had been born a year later, until eventually I was teaching students who had not even been alive on Sept. 11, 2001.
I would always start the discussion by asking, “What do you know about Sept. 11?” By the time I taught this lesson to the students who were born post-9/11, the answers had become almost unbelievable. Students told of kidnappings, bombs going off and even alien abductions. The students thought they knew what this event was, but I gathered that they had never heard the whole story.
These students, I realized, had no idea what it felt like to see an attack on American soil, or how it affected our country. They did not feel that sense of urgency to band together and protect what we had. That is when I realized that perhaps this was not the fault of the students. Perhaps the rest of us had forgotten as well.
Turning on the news today, you see stories about the Kardashians, the presidential race and football season. Sure, war is discussed and current events are mentioned, but that sense of patriotism and community often gets lost in our constant competitiveness and attention-seeking. That amazing sense of togetherness felt after 9/11 is not being shown to our children enough. We get defensive when our neighbor mentions politics, and we are afraid to help the homeless person standing on the corner. We are too busy to worry about things outside of our comfort zone.
So, to the teachers and future teachers out there: Teach your students about 9/11. Teach your students about Pearl Harbor, about D-Day, about Gettysburg. Remind your students that there are real people out there fighting for our country.
And then remind them what it means to be an American.
Show them what community and love look like. Teach them to treasure our country and our freedoms. Teach them that every day is a gift and that we should be reaching out to others when we see the need.
Educators have the greatest opportunity each day to make a difference in students’ lives, so please, let us teach our children about history so they can use it to empower our future.
To read more about celebrating citizenship this September, check out our past blog posts.
More about Lynn:
Lynn Basko has a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction and a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education. She is currently attending GCU and earning a Doctor of Education in educational leadership with an emphasis in K-12 education. Before working as a full-time online faculty member at GCU, she worked as a fifth grade teacher in Chandler, AZ for eight years. Lynn loved being in the classroom and making an impact on students’ lives every day. She lives in Gilbert, AZ with her husband of five years. They enjoy watching movies, hiking and spending time with extended family. She and her husband also really enjoy traveling. On her own, Lynn loves quilting, painting, trivia and playing with her one-year-old niece. She also loves children’s literature, Disney, Harry Potter and American history.