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  • Melissa Riggs

Remembering 9/11 Eighteen Years Later

Updated: Sep 24, 2019

In 2001 I lived seventeen miles from the Pentagon. We had moved to Reston, Virginia a little over a year previously, so it was very surreal to be so close to this national tragedy.


In 2003 we moved to Falcon, Colorado. My oldest was in first grade and she went a little late to school on 9-11-03 in order to finish watching the reading of the names at the NYC site of World Trade Center. She was proudly wearing her Old Navy flag shirt and interested to see what activities and discussions would happen in her class about the events of 9/11. When I picked her up from school, she was in tears. She couldn't understand how anyone could go through this day without remembering: the lives lost, buildings destroyed, the heroes who emerged.


I went back to teaching in 2005 and made it my goal to address the events in some way with my students. My class of Kindergardeners that year were babies in 2001, but many of their parents were members of the military and were deployed. What could I talk with them about?


I found this wonderful book written and illustrated by first-grade students at Masterson Elementary and published by Scholastic Book Clubs. It was a reassurance that even in times of tragedy, the world continues and certain routines stay in place.


Teachers Pay Teachers has many free and paid activities by searching September 11. Here's a link to a simple book that primary students can create:


In 2011 I began teaching 5th grade and most of my students had not been born in 2001, but again many of their parents were deployed as members of the military. They had never known airports without long security lines and liquids in ziplock bags.

That year, NOVA released an episode entitled "Engineering Ground Zero". It's available for a cost from either Amazon Prime or iTunes. It's advertised as "epic story of engineering, innovation, and the perseverance of the human spirit". While long (53:08), students are mesmerized as engineers and others discuss the design limitations on the now destroyed World Trade Center buildings and the how those limitations are being addressed in the design and building One World Trade Center and the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum.


911day.org has lesson plans for grade levels as well as ideas for good deeds. Tracee Orman has a wonderful service project outline for older students. I have a 2 page interview sheet that is great for intermediate students. It asks them to interview 2 different people who remember the events of 9-11-01. This is a great way for students to connect the world we live in today with the world prior to the tragedy. You can find both with this link:


These are just a few ideas for helping students remember. My daughter will be 23 next month, she just graduated college and commissioned into the Navy. Being a part of the military was something she decided on in part because of the events of 9/11.


How will you remember?


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