My students were all babies or just twinkles in their mother’s eyes when the attack on The Twin Towers took place. They don’t have any memories associated with that date in September, and so it isn’t real to them. The moment of silence in the school building was louder than it should have been. The essays about the impact on the families of those lost were not heartfelt. It seems it is more difficult to teach students to care about those they do not know personally than it is to get them to pass one of the new Common Core state tests.
I remember the day vividly. My grandmother woke me up to tell me the Trade Center had been attacked, and we watched the footage together over and over. I had been inside the Trade Center only a few months before buying discounted theater tickets at the TKTS booth, and every time I left New York for New Jersey where I had been living I kept my eyes on the World a Trade Center until it disappeared out of sight.
The attack on NYC motivated me to become a teacher in the city. I would have most likely become a lawyer if September the eleventh had not occurred. I felt the desire to move to NY in order to help students learn not only how to read and write, but also how to care about each other and the world at large.
Sometimes I feel I have failed. My mind has been trying to think up ways to teach compassion for others and a sense of civic responsibility for sometime now. I struggle when my students don’t take the pledge seriously. I struggle when they are mean and nasty to each other.
Today I broke my cell phone. I dropped it in the parking lot and it was smashed by a car. In some ways this is the perfect metaphor for how I feel about my students’ lack of caring about 9/11. The cell phone which was my lifeline with all the important numbers and pictures and Siri on it was something I assumed would always be there and available. When it was broken I had to face the realities that I had lost everything I had taken advantage of having at my fingertips. Perhaps without losses we do not understand the fullness of the lives we had. Perhaps my students need to learn the hard way.
I do not wish to pass unfair judgments on my students, but I think they might not process the extent of what happened until they’ve had to lose more in order to gain insights into the event that changed Amereica.