The anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th came and went last week. 14 years. Wow. Like most, I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. Like most, I remember exactly the fear and confusion that surround that time. And now, I realize that for the first time, my students are so far removed from the day’s events that they have no strong feelings regarding it.
I have always taught juniors and seniors, and up until this year, they all had at least some vague recollection of the day’s events. This year, my students stared at me blankly as I talked about, and that is a shame to me–as an American, as an educator, as a person.
The terrorist attacks of September 11th forever changed the American landscape, and yet we seem to be glossing over the implications and causes of those events in our school systems. My students–upper level juniors–knew very little of that day other than the fact that terrorists flew 2 planes into the World Trade Center, 1 plane into the Pentagon, and 1 plane into a field in Pennsylvania. They had little to no true appreciation for what actually happened and what it all means for our culture.
On this last anniversary last week, I was teaching Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and I made reference to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and their comments immediately following the events of September 11th when this exchange occurred:
Falwell: “The pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.'”
Robertson: “Well, I totally concur.”
My students were appalled, and I was appalled that my students had no idea such people held influence in the world around us. I realized this past week that September 11th is a day for remembrance, but it’s also a day full of many lessons that we as educators need to make sure do not get forgotten. We can’t assume our students know these things, and we can’t be afraid of having tough conversations with them about what happened, why it happened, it what it led to.