Teachers reflect, educate students on significance of 9/11 attacks

Local News

BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Saturday marks 20 years the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and a plane crashed in Pennsylvania, headed towards D.C.

In the Twin Cities, teachers are looking to convey the impact of that day to a group of students who were not even born.

In the classroom, teachers who remember 9/11 or even were teaching during the tragedy are now teaching future generations, hoping students walk away never forgetting the significance of the date.

Those who were alive in 2001 remember the date September 11th. Language Arts teacher Julie Riley said she was teaching at Bloomington Junior High School the day of the attacks, in the middle of standardized testing season, when it happened.

“There was a knock at my door. The principal had come to the door and I said, ‘Oh we’re testing’ and she said, ‘I know. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t important,'” Riley said.

Riley said the day started out like any other day until news reached Central Illinois that two planes flew into the World Trade Center in New York. She said it was on TV at BJHS throughout the day.

“We had TV news available, and we did watch the news with the kids for a while, and I can remember being worried about what we might see,” Riley said. “I eventually turned it off because I didn’t want to be the one to show them (students) that.”

At Normal West High School, social studies teacher Jason Klokkenga was teaching the topic Friday to his 11 and 12 grade International Relations class. The class had the opportunity to get a first-hand look at the historic event.

“It’s one of those earth-shattering, shaping events,” Klokkenga said. “How I’ve kind of chosen to teach this is I want kids to be able to experience this with someone who was there.”

The juniors and seniors in his elective class listened to first-hand accounts of the tragedy, sifted through old newspapers, and even chatted virtually with representatives from the 9/11 Museum and Memorial in New York City.

“Each story with 9/11 is unique and different in itself and this lets them investigate that story, but also shapes their own story of how they’re going to share this with their friends or their children,” Klokkenga said.

Normal West senior Isaac Demosthenes said he now understands the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, another topic in the class, and why 9/11 means so much to Americans.

“The way they describe what they were going through or their loved ones were going through was kind of traumatizing, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” Demosthenes said.

Senior Max Ziebarth said he now realizes how 9/11 impacted many aspects of American life.

“I mean, just the amount of lives it took and the people it impacted and how it still impacts people today, I can still see that even though I wasn’t born then,” Ziebarth said.

In all, 2,977 Americans lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.

The 9/11 Museum and Memorial is located at the World Trade Center, the former location of the Twin Towers.

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