How should future generations be educated about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?
To mark the tenth anniversary of the attacks, Bel Air High School eleventh graders considered that question as they wrote letters to their future grandchildren recalling their first hand experiences on 9/11, and reflecting on the war on terrorism and the national mood ten years later.
Entitled “Remember, Reflect, and Renew”, the voluntary assignment was part of a 9/11 memorial organized by Dr. Robert Handy, chairman of the Bel Air High School Social Studies Department. A chunk of ravaged steel from the World Trade Center and other 9/11 artifacts are the focus of the memorial, currently on display in the main hallway at Bel Air High.
Reflecting on the need for a local memorial to a national tragedy, Dr. Handy said, “Educators are aware that within the next few years, our students will not have first hand memories of this event. It is important, therefore, for both present and future students, and for our community, to provide a local Memorial that will personalize the losses and sacrifices made on their crucial date in America’s history.”
A number of student essays were selected for publication and appear below with parental permission. Some essays were excerpted in order to include a greater number of responses.
I must be ancient by now and losing my mind. While it’s still fresh in my head, I’d like to tell you about the event that defined my generation, the 9/11 attacks.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, an anti-American terrorist group called Al-Qaeda changed our country’s history forever. They took control of commercial planes and crashed them into important national buildings. Terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, another into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and a fourth into a field in Pennsylvania that was meant for Washington, DC. All passengers, workers and hijackers on the four planes perished that day as well as nearly 3,000 in New York and 125 in the Pentagon. At the time of the attacks, my father was working for the army in a Pentagon office that was across the street from the Pentagon. Fortunately he didn’t have a meeting in the Pentagon that day. He was safe, although he had to walk a long way home. At the time, we lived 8 miles from the Pentagon and could smell it burning for days. It took a year for the Pentagon to be rebuilt and almost a year to clean up the site of the World Trade Center.
The war on terror still continues 10 years after its start, and it seems like there’s no end in sight. Of course, it’s better to be fighting over there than to have more attacks, but it’s tragic that the war had to happen in the first place. This war is going on to ensure our safety, and I’m thankful for the soldiers who risked their lives for mine, but I wish that we could just make cookies for each other and not put another soldier in harm’s way.
I don’t think that our country will ever truly get over the 9/11 attacks. The wound is still fresh ten years after that tragic day. Immediately after the attacks, there was a surge of outward patriotism with banners and flags, but that faded shortly after. The one who are truly patriotic are the one who still work for our country and are fully aware of the risk involved.
September 11, 2001 is not only one of the most memorable days in American history, it is one of the most memorable days in my history. I was only six years old, in first grade, when it happened. Me, my mother, and my step dad were living in Brooklyn, New York at the time. My mother worked at a hospital in Manhattan.
I was in school when it happened. I remember practicing for a play that our grade would be performing. My apartment was right across the street from my school. My step dad picked me up from school early and I asked him why as we walked home. I remember him saying, “Something terrible has happened in Manhattan.” Immediately I thought about my mother, could something have happened to her?
When we got home we watched the news as they showed the incident over and over again. My worry increased as the hours went by and we heard nothing from my mother. After a while we could actually see the smoke as it traveled all the way from ground zero, miles away. My mom was evacuated but didn’t’ get home until around 6 or 7 because of all the traffic.
I remember not fully understanding the gravity of the situation. I asked why they kept showing it. I remember my parents correctly predicting the fact that when I was older, I would be telling this story to my children and grandchildren.
Before 9/11 the war on terrorism was in the back of the American mind. It was not a total war in any shape or form. The events of 9/11 brought to attention the danger terrorists pose. 9/11 was in many ways a wake up call for America and ten years later it is still fresh in our minds as if it had happened yesterday.
– Richard Rivera
Few things can affect someone in one moment. September 11, 2011 is a moment like that. Words cannot simply describe this event, for it was mainly felt, but I will try. I was in first grade, and at school. All of a sudden, the principal was over the intercom, telling us there was an accident in New York City and school was getting out early. It was like a calm evacuation, one could say.
Once at home, my dad turned on the television. I saw planes crash into two towers, saw them smoke, saw them crumbling and later, saw the aftermath of rubble…
My dad took me to the playground, away from the images that even now cause me to tear. The playground was empty except for another girl and her dad. It was silent. The dads looked at the sky. There were no planes. My dad later told me I had visited the Towers when I was one. Looking at the pictures of that visit gives me an eerie chill.
Since then we’ve fought a war on terrorism, triggered by this event. It has been hard, for all. There have been success and failures. It has been a dedication and long going. The soldiers fight to protect us, and, in turn, we support them. It is what we can do.
It is almost the tenth commemoration of the event, and feelings are mixed. There has been healing, persevering, honoring, sadness and bonding. All of America has bonded because of 9/11. Everyone who can remembers where they were on that day. On September 11, 2011 a great memorial is to be revealed at the site in New York City. I’m sure hope will be felt, even after all the sadness.
If the world could ever slam to a stop, it did on September 11, 2001 at 8:46 a.m. God will continue to bless America. May my simple words and memories give an understanding to the event that shook America.
– Becca Dierken
I write this letter to you to try to help you grasp a moment in my life, and the country’s history that has defined both. On September 11th of 2001 the world was shocked, an event occurred that day that changed millions of lives, including mine….
…I was six years old when this happened. I remember everyone getting picked up from school and I remember my teacher starting to cry. This single event had a major contribution to my pursuing my career in the military. This event motivated, inspired, and pushed me to want to serve my great nation. Although this was a horrifying event it did draw U.S. citizens together with American pride and courage. Today, people are still deeply moved by September 11th. Our country is still fighting the war on terrorism in honor and memory of the lives lost that fateful day 10 years ago.
– Tyler Luby
Remembering September 11, 2001
….On the day of the attacks workers left their jobs to return home to their loved ones, schools were on lock-down, and all of America was in a state of hopelessness. After the attacks, America was changed. Citizens were sending donations and fundraising money to New York for any kind of help needed…
Since then, security has become stronger, and military duty increased to help keep America safe. This relates to when America came back better and stronger after the end of World War II, nothing can bring us down permanently. Our National Anthem states that we are “the home of the brave,” and everyone in American has certainly helped prove it.
My dear grandchildren,
My generation is the last one that lived during and remembers the day of September 11, 2001.
I was in the first grade, and the school was dismissing us early. When it was announced, I had been joyful that the school day was being unexpectedly shortened. But when my grandfather arrived to bring my brother and I home, my happiness vanished. My grandfather was unlike his usual self. There were no jokes, no laughs, no smiles. He was silent and his face was empty, his eyes serious. And when we arrived home, my parents’ tear-filled eyes were glued to the television screen, which showed videos and pictures of the Twin Towers lost in a cloud of black, billowing smoke and flying debris. People jumped from the windows of the skyscrapers and terrified observers fled in the chaotic streets. The mood was fearful and sad.
But many years passed before I finally learned and understood the seriousness and pain of that historically tragic day. Still today, America is fighting against terrorism, trying to protect others from the same fate. And though 9/11 provoked anger and resentment towards those responsible, it also created a united faith and hope in the states. 10 years after the disaster, people all over the nation stop to remember and honor the courage of the soldiers, firefighters, and other brave souls who saved lives. Let us never forget that day when so many innocent lives were lost.
Even those who did not experience 9/11 first hand can pass down stories and memories that keep it alive.
– Faith Wang (Grandma)