There was a period of time in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, when many students whom educators taught about the attacks, had seen with their own eyes the towers burning. It is hard to believe, but no current students were alive when the devastation of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to took place.
They didn’t witness two planes crashing into and causing the crumbling of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, they didn’t feel the fear of what might come next after American Flight 77 dove into the Pentagon and they didn’t instantly hear of messages sent by passengers of United Flight 93 to their loved ones as they watched the thwarting of hijackers.
How can it possibly be explained to a younger generation what the days were like after the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in U.S. history. Just under three thousand people lost their lives that day.
Just as some cannot fathom what the reality during the days of Pearl Harbor, but yet learned the importance in school, the days of September 11 can still leave an impact on a younger generation. Principal Tom Bensen from Amery Middle School and former Principal of Amery Intermediate School, Oralee Schock, started an annual community program after the attacks, which brings together students, staff, veterans, auxilary, firefighters, law enforcement, EMTs and residents.
Bensen said, “We have been holding a program since the year after the initial Sept. 11 attack happed in 2001. Initially we started more with a moment of silence here at school, with a reading and talking points for teachers. After a year or two this developed more into the community program we currently have.”
They have held a program every year unless 9/11 has fallen on a weekend.
“For the first few years following the attacks, there were obviously a lot of raw emotions, including fear for a lot of people. Students that are now in school were not born when the attack happened, so we want our students not only to understand what took place, but also how it has shaped our country over the past eighteen years,” Bensen said.
He feels teaching students about 9/11 can be a delicate task. Bensen said, “There are emotional burdens for many people when talking about 9/11 and the subject matter is also sensitive. There are images that can be disturbing to a lot of students. Things are obviously taught in age appropriate increments (just like we would when discussing Pearl Harbor or any other major topic) and our focus is not just on the event, but how we can all work together with others to help better serve and make our world a better place.”
Although because of the anniversary falling on a weekend, there will be no 9/11 program this year, Bensen intends on keeping the education about the events of that day going. He said, “Since we are at the 20-year anniversary, none of our students were alive when this happened, so the nature of what we have to cover and discuss has changed over time as it was such a bigger part of the kids’ lives that were in school the day that this happened.”
Bensen said, “We will be covering a discussion in social studies classes about 9/11 this year and the importance of remembering the date and also honoring the sacrifice that our first responders, fire fighters, police and EMT’s gave on 9/11 and also to honor our officers, fire fighters and first responders that support us here in Amery to keep us all safe every day.”