By Astha Agarwal
Eleven years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, students and teachers agreed that the way it is commemorated at South is beginning to change both in the classroom and in the community as a whole.
While many students said they noticed that the formal remembrance of 9/11 has lost significance at South, several history teachers said that discussing 9/11 in class has become more important to them now, given that the majority of current South students were between the ages of 2 and 7 at the time and therefore remember less about the actual day.
Junior Stephanie Foster said she felt that recognizing 9/11 at school is beneficial to the South community because it reminds students and faculty of the event and ensures that it will not be forgotten.
“I was surprised because every year Mr. Stembridge has a Moment of Silence for everybody over the loudspeaker and this year he didn’t have it,” Foster said. “I was a little confused because I was anticipating it and I think it’s a good thing to do.”
American History teacher Andrew Thompson said he gave his students an opportunity to think about questions they have regarding 9/11 and what they remember about it, along with a brief excerpt from a film recounting the attacks.
Thompson said he believes that learning about the events of the day in a purely historical manner is essential for students in order to understand the misjudgments and racial stereotypes that were formed as a result.
“Since I know that most of my students were only about 5 or 6 when the event happened, [my goal] was to give them some visuals and an overview of what happened,” Thompson said. “Having students simply aware of the day, and trying to combat some of the hyperboles or myths [and] factual misunderstandings or misrepresentations, is really important.”
Junior Sara Wang, a student in Thompson’s Modern Global Communities class, said she appreciates the fact that he discussed 9/11 in class because it provided her a glimpse into the actual events that she never had before.
“I’d never seen the [video] footage itself before,” Wang said. “I’d only heard stories about it and I didn’t remember anything. It was really significant to me to see the extent of destruction – dust all through the streets, people coughing, and so much rubble.”
History teacher Rob Stark shared a personal story with his class about his daughter’s experience watching 9/11 live through the window of her Brooklyn apartment.
“My daughter was in the kitchen cooking and watching the event on her little TV,” Stark said. “She looked out the window and saw the towers [with] the smoke coming out, and had one of those moments almost where [she wondered] which is real – what’s on the TV or what I’m seeing through the window.”
“And then maybe about in 10 minutes…this dust and papers just came streaming across the window in sort of a violent wind — and her first reaction was, What have they done to my city? So, [the day] is personal to me,” Stark said.
Foster, a student in Stark’s American history class, said that hearing her teacher’s personal story about the day gave her a window into the events through the eyes of another person.
“I agree with Mr. Stark that remembering 9/11 is really thinking about how you fit into the picture,” Foster said. “I don’t think anything too exquisite has to be done to recognize the day, but putting it back into everyone’s mind so that we don’t forget it happened, is good.”
History teacher Gene Stein — who acknowledged 9/11 in his classroom through a film and a biography of a Muslim-American man who saved lives during the attacks immediately before he passed away — said that over time it has become increasingly important for teachers to discuss the attacks with their students.
“As we get older, we forget that students that keep coming in [to South] have less and less a recollection of it, so it’s important for them to realize that this was a traumatic event in American history that changed a lot in our country,” Stein said.
“I think it’s an interesting question, now that we’re past 10 years [since the event], how much longer we’ll be sure to talk about [9/11 in class],” Thompson said. “I wonder when it becomes simply part of a unit in history rather than a day we commemorate.”
UPDATE: 8:47, 9/12/12 This story has been updated to correct an attribution error. An earlier version transposed Rob Stark’s and Gene Stein’s quotations.