High school students have no frame of reference for 9/11

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) — Nearly two decades later, a generation born after the September eleventh attacks is learning about its significance without having a context in their own lives.

“Watching the videos and hearing those people, I can’t even imagine what it would be like for people who had family members in the building or even the people just standing there, watching it,” Bishop Dwenger junior Abbi Schenkel says.

The Advanced Placement U.S. history class at Bishop Dwenger High School is full of 16- and 17-year-olds who weren’t even born when the September eleventh attacks happened, so they have no personal frame of reference about the events.

“When you learn more about it and you revisit it and think about it more, it affects you and it changes you, I guess,” junior Quinn Gillig says.

Even though they’ve been taught about it over the years, their teacher, Carrie Bleeke, tries to get her students to feel some emotion about what happened.

Instead of teaching facts about September eleventh, she asks her students to put themselves in people’s shoes and imagine what they were thinking or feeling as they sat in air traffic control towers, or answered 911 calls, or phoned their loved ones from a doomed plane.

“The memory of the course, the content, that you’re trying to maybe factually get across sticks with them longer. Any time they can get a personal connection, it does really impact their ability to recall that information later on,” Bleeke says.

Over the years, Bleeke has had to modify how she teaches about 9/11.

She used to be able to have a discussion with her students to reflect on that day because they had that shared experience.

“Now they don’t have that shared experience so I kind of have to go and create their own experience for them through these videos to generate that emotion, and then go back and talk,” Bleeke says.

Coincidentally, both students we talked to have visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York, and described it as an emotional experience.

“The air traffic control, that kind of thing, they play it in the background, and it was all those things together, all at once, was just kind of unsettling,” Gillig says.

“It definitely brought tears to my eyes because I can’t believe all these people died from this,” Schenkel adds.

It’s a more emotional connection for these students who’ve grown up in a post-9/11 world, who’ve only ever known removing their shoes at airport security, and being acutely aware of their surroundings to the point where if they see something, they say something.

Bleeke explained that teaching students now about September eleventh is similar to teaching them about the attack on Pearl Harbor or the D-Day invasion of World War II.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose

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