22 years later, teachers reflect on how 9/11 is remembered in the classroom

***Related 9/11 video above***

(The Hill) – More than two decades after Sept. 11, 2001, educators who watched the terrorist attacks live on television are seeing slow changes in the way that tragic day is honored in classrooms.

Teachers are being forced to walk a fine line and confront the emotions of a day no one in their generation will forget, all while teaching children who view the deadliest foreign attack on U.S. soil as a distant historical event.

“It was actually my first year as a teacher and we had only been in school a few weeks when it happened, so I was still very new,” said Shannon Seneczko, who taught fifth grade in a Chicago suburb. “And that really hits me. That was one of my very first learning experiences, dealing with my own emotions that day and then also being there for the children.”

Seneczko recalled the nervousness of students whose parents were in town the day of the attack because no one knew where the next target might be.

Some were even closer to the site of the terrorist attacks. John DeFazio, a teacher at a private Catholic school, was just 24 miles from the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

DeFazio remembers some parents coming to pick up their children, although he didn’t know how close Flight 93 crashed to their building until after the school day. He remembers that in the days that followed it was “a little surprising” how things continued “as usual” in the region.

He says honors became something of a routine in the years that followed.

“There were probably a few times over the next few years when there were memorial ceremonies for Flight 93 – some of us would stop class and show it on TV. In fact, several years later, students were able to see the memory and families gathered in Somerset County,” DeFazio said.

And just last week, the school bused its students to the official Flight 93 memorial to commemorate the day.

However, the further you get from the crash sites, the focus on that day and the emotions associated with it may no longer be felt as strongly by students or teachers.

“For a while after 9/11, our school observed a moment of silence at the beginning of the day during the morning announcements. But you know, as time goes on, like everything else… I don’t want to say that memories fade, but that we move further and further away from them,” said Jamie VanDever, who taught sixth grade during the attack and now is in the eighth grade – homeroom teacher in Kansas. “And the further we went, the less the children understood what was going on.”

“I teach an English class, and in the first few years after 9/11 we did some writing assignments and some reading assignments in memory of 9/11. I think we’re far enough away from it now as these are getting smaller and smaller,” she added, although it hasn’t completely disappeared yet.

For those far from the East Coast, VanDever said there are fewer personal connections to the terrorist attacks.

“Being in the Midwest, it is very, very unlikely that anyone here, certainly at our school, has known or even known of anyone who was directly affected by 9/11,” she said. “So we’re removed from that aspect, and so I feel like while those emotions are there for us older teachers who will remember them vividly, they don’t necessarily have the visceral, personal aspect of actually knowing someone who “It could have been lost that day.”

While it can be increasingly difficult to make students understand the pain of September 11th, especially far from New York and Washington, many teachers try to share individual stories and their own experiences to help their students understand how far-reaching and close the terrorist attack was a tragedy.

“I bring the idea of ​​my own personal experience, and I think because I have a good relationship with most of my students and when I talk about it, I get their full attention when I talk about it,” said Mark Scheurer, a U.S -American history teacher in Michigan.

A story he always tells his students is how he flew a few days after 9/11 and how a person of Middle Eastern descent was treated on that flight, with the passengers apparently uncomfortable with the person’s presence.

“I think I really understood her then, and I tried to put it from a perspective where we’re so quick to judge people based on their looks and things like that,” he said.

Scheurer said he was “not surprised” by the change in mood among students, comparing it to his own memory of teachers discussing the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

“Actually, I probably understand it better now,” he said.



DevanCole is a Dailynationtoday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. DevanCole joined Dailynationtoday in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: devancole@dailynationtoday.com.

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