As we’ve been getting to know each other this week, I’ve shared with my students that I spent six months during college living in Manhattan for an internship. I fell in love with the city during that spring of 1999, and was so thankful for the chance to return with my best friend in 2001. We spent 5 days touring the city in May, and I was amazed by the ways in which it still felt like home. There were many things that had changed, but so many more that remained the same.
It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting at work in Grand Rapids talking with manufacturers and distributors many of whom were based in New York or New Jersey. When word of the attacks came filtering through the office, we all huddled together around the TVs a few co-workers rushed out to buy. We watched in stunned silence. There was a frenzy of calls and emails between new colleagues to be sure they were safe, and old college friends bonded by the time spent together in “our city.” As time passed I remember being consumed by the news footage and reports, and especially on that first anniversary, I sat and sobbed hearing the stories the victims. My heart still ached for the loss felt by so many families and swelled with gratitude and a new appreciation for the blessings in my own life.
In 2007, I returned to New York to attend the annual meeting of the National Writing Project. It was the first time I’d been back since the attacks. I remember walking around Ground Zero seeing both what it currently was and remember it as it used to be. It was a bittersweet experience to say the least.
When I think about my students and realize most of them were entering Kindergarten and didn’t fully understand what was happening, I feel compelled to present an opportunity for them to consider it. Over the years the ways in which I have marked the anniversary of 9/11 has changed. While I certainly don’t want students to remember only the devastation of the day, but also the hope, camaraderie and patriotism that swelled in the wake of that day, I do think that they need to be reminded of the impact.
While this video doesn’t directly relate to 9/11, I do think it packs a powerful message. While I do have friends and family members who have and some who are currently serving in the military, I’ve never dealt with the deployment of a loved one directly. I have yet to make it through this entire video – OK who am I kidding, I’ve yet to make it even a few seconds into this video – without the feeling tingle of tears. I think that the emotion and the impact and allowing students to see beyond their own experiences by viewing small excerpts from this video will serve as an excellent foundation for further classroom discussion and reflective writing.