Discovering the Relevance of Words
I will never forget waking up on September 11th, 2001. I will never forget the phone call from my girlfriend at the time, and trying to grasp what she was saying so early in the morning. I will never forget turning on the television just seconds before the 2nd plane went through the 2nd tower. I will never forget calling my parents to make sure that my family – aunt, uncle, cousins, – and family friends were okay. I will never forget hearing that my dad had lost a good friend – head of security for the World Trade Center. I will never forget Professor Steele holding class for mere minutes, only to explain to us what his experiences had been during previous world catastrophes, and then letting us go.
I will never remember Kennedy or King or Till being assassinated, or the Vietnam War, or the beginning of the Gulf War or Desert Storm. I will never remember those events because I was either not alive, or far too young to truly process what had happened.
Each September 11th I ask my students if they understand the importance of the day, and as we move farther from 2001, I get more and more students who cannot remember why that date is important, or who simply don’t care. It’s not because they are “too cool” to care, it’s that it simply doesn’t matter to their generation. It’s my generation’s Gulf War. I was too young, and in all honesty, it holds no real meaning in my world. I can read about it all I want, but that doesn’t mean I actually “get it” or “care” about it.
My question of the day is this:
As we move beyond the catastrophic events of previous generations, how should we teach the new generations about them? What is the best way to learn about the historical relevance of these moments?