Many who remember 9/11 know exactly where they were and what they were doing when the “world stopped turning.”
But, for those were born on or after Sept. 11, 2001, they rely on parents, guardians and teachers to tell them about the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Shanksville, Somerset County.
Teachers and staff members in schools are finding ways to remember the lives who were lost on that September day, including Jeremy Uhrich, who teaches 8th grade English Language Arts at Huntingdon Area Middle School.
Every year, Uhrich leads a unit dedicated to the events that happened on and after 9/11, so students can remember the enormity of what happened.
Uhrich not only focuses on what happened 9/11, but also on what happened in the days immediately following the terrorist attacks.
“I want to help them to understand the idea of heroes, especially the first responders, and I want them to know we have those heroes today in our community,” he said. “I also want to teach them how to be proud to be Americans, especially in a time where it was tough.
“I teach them what it was like the days after Sept. 11, 2001,” Uhrich added. “This was a time where everyone came together and they accepted people for who they were. I want to teach them that we can still be that way — 18 years later.”
As part of the unit, Uhrich asks students to write cards to local first responders to thank them for their service to their communities.
This also gives an opportunity for students in the class to ask questions like, “Why did (the terrorists) choose this time of day for the attacks?” or “How did they form this terrorist organization?”
Rachel Goodman, an 8th grade student in Uhrich’s class, said when she thinks of 9/11, the first thing that comes to mind are those who lost their lives who tried to contact loved ones to inform them they may not make it.
“I first learned about it when I was in elementary school, about 2nd or 3rd grade, but we really didn’t talk about it in school until about 4th or 5th grade,” she said, adding they didn’t learn extensively about 9/11 until Goodman reached middle school.
“I remember when I learned about it, I went home and asked my parents questions about it,” she said.
For Goodman, the tale of Flight 93 that went down in Shanksville also sticks out in her mind because of its proximity to the county.
“I think about that and realize how close that was,” she said. “That’s when reality sets in for me with what actually happened.”
Kieya McGrath, another 8th grade student, thinks about those who lost their lives 9/11.
“In many ways, directly or indirectly, everyone in the U.S. was affected by it,” she said.
Though she remembers hearing about 9/11 in elementary school, she doesn’t remember learning about the details of what happened until she was in middle school.
“When I learned the details of what happened I was in 6th grade, that’s when it hit me how horrible this was,” said McGrath. “We learned about how it happened, how many people died and how hateful the actions of the terrorists were.”
When asking her parents about the events of 9/11 and how it impacted them, she learned that many of her family members were inspired to join the military after 9/11.
When she thinks of 9/11 today, McGrath said it’s a time to pay respects to those who lost their lives that day and in the days to follow with the War on Terror.
“We need to pay respects to those who have lost their lives and what measures they’ve taken to protect our country,” she said. “It’s also a time for us to remember what it was like to be attacked (on American soil).”