It is hard to believe that it has been 7 years since the fall of the twin towers. It is even more mind boggling to realize that my 5th grade students (10-11 years old) only remember “Ground Zero” and ceremonies commemorating the day. They have no memory of the towers and do not notice the gape in the skyline. For them, September 11th must feel like Pearl Harbor, the Death of Kennedy or even the Lincoln assassination feels to me. It is a tragic story but one that feels very distant and separate from their own experience. Therefore, I struggle with the best way to approach this anniversary appropriately. I don’t want to scare my students but I also don’t want to just talk about “tolerance” and “heroes.”
When I arrived at the local Barnes and Noble, I found that it appeared as if they were also struggling with how to approach the date so their solution was to just ignore it. In fact, it looked as if B&N might be knee-deep in denial. There was no “September 11th” display to be found. Although I could pick up a few dozen books on pumpkins, Thanksgiving and even Yom Kippur. When I checked with the customer service rep, I was told that she didn’t have any of my book requests in stock and didn’t have any other suggestions.
After speaking with some fellow teachers, searching on Amazon and googling lesson plans, I was able to come up with a few helpful resources.
I found September Roses by Jeanette Winter. It is a very simple story about “two sisters from South Africa who are stranded in New York in the aftermath of September 11.” I believe this will allow me to provide some background to my students and also place the day in an emotional context.
On National Geographic’s website, I found an interactive presentation, We Survived September 11th, which was created by the students of P.S. 234. I do not believe I will have the opportunity to show it tomorrow but it was extremely moving to watch. It made me wonder where these students are now and how they will be commemorating the day
I also found What Would You Do For Peace which was created by Faith Reingold in collaboration with “NYC Youth.” Since it is written from the perspective of students, I am hoping that it will resonate with my class.
I am still a little nervous about the best way to approach 9/11. Despite my discomfort, I want to make sure that my students understand the significance of tomorrow and that they are given an opportunity to reflect on it.
ETA: My class had more to talk about then I realized. A few of them had lived in NYC at the time and a few others have memories of the buildings burning. Others shared stories that their parents told them or stories they heard from t.v. or the radio. After having a discussion where people shared their memories, I then read September Roses. It was simple but powerful. Tomorrow, we are going to draw pictures and make paper roses to commemorate the day.