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Time for the Tough Talk: 9/11

“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” – Sandy Dahl (wife of Jason Dahl, Flight 93 pilot) It’s time for the tough talk, America. It’s time our kids LEARN about the tragedies of that day. I am an observer of more than 1,500 students in my midst in 12 years…trust me, no one is telling our kids about 9/11. It’s time to TALK about it. 

It’s time for the tough talk of what took place on 9/11 because our kids truly need to know.

Each year it comes, and each year it has exited a little further from the reaches of that day 18 years ago. A little less recent in memory, a little more desensitized we all are with each mass shooting or harsh words between the Kardashians and whoever they are vying against this week.  

It is a silent piece of the memory bank we all have, for those of us born before 1995ish. A day we all share in having experienced the tragedy, confusion, sadness, and angst of an America that existed before 9/11 and the America that exists forevermore, after 8:46 am on that day. 

I began teaching in 2007. My students that year were born (mostly) in 1996. For reflective writing and nonfiction readings, I would always use that day to spotlight the tragedy and unyielding spirit of being an American citizen on that day, in this country. The kids back then had some spotty memories and occasionally a close connection via a sibling that then enlisted or a parent who was sent to war in Afghanistan. The years that followed, my students became less and less comprised of stories that their parents had shared with them at home nor retellings of what their mom or dad had actually been doing when terror began on that day in 2001. It became so transparent by 2010, a group of toddlers back in 2001, had hardly spoken of 9/11 in their households. Not at dinner. Not watching the news. Never. It’s been a bothered thorn in my side for nearly a decade since those first realizations that our youngest citizens may not realize what took place on that day or the days thereafter. 

It’s time to talk about it. They literally have no idea what life was like for our country on that day.

It’s time to talk about it. Death? Tricky to tackle with kids? Yes, so shine a light on the heroes of that day. Focus on the careers that rescued men, women, and children – firefighters, police officers, first-responders, doctors, nurses, average Joes who stepped up and did things that had to be done.

It’s time to talk about it. The battle between good and evil, good and bad, kindness and hatred, peace, and turmoil.

It’s time to talk about it. We have to at least acknowledge the fact that a group of people existed with hate in their veins – but not all people of a collective group ARE hateful. And how can love and kindness offset such evils? These are notions to ponder with little ears. Conversations create experiences. Learning is best done through experiences. 

We have to talk about it. How was America different after that day? Can kids today even imagine a world where we weren’t bickering about taking knees at football games because we were too busy shedding tears during an Anthem that emotionally tore us to shreds with the blood that was lost?

We have to talk about how we came together as a nation. We have to. Our kids aren’t seeing a whole lot in the way of compromise and agreement on their TV or devices – this person in a Twitter war with so-and-so, that person trash-talking a complete stranger who simply has different beliefs. In these bodies, whether they are our toddlers or our teens, live HEARTS that HAVE TO receive the education needed so that history does not repeat itself. 

Talk about 9/11. It’s time. (Anne’s son pictured with his great-grandpa)

If you are still unsure how to define 9/11 in a way that does justice to its tragedy, try an online opportunity with the following options:

9/11 Brainpop

(For older kids/teens): KidsKonnect

911memorial.org

If we aren’t talking about it with this age group, and the next, and the next generations, and WE are the ones alive NOW who did live through it, then who will be the storytellers and historians giving a lesson on life, liberties, pursuits, and yes, the real, sheer pain of that day? I worry that we, and by we I mean us, the adults, the examples, perhaps didn’t learn anything at all that day. Because the true staple that someone has LEARNED is by TEACHING the concept to someone else. Time for the tough talk. They could use the lessons of that day because it has shaped our country each day after. 

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