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For 9/11, Students Get First-Hand Accounts of History

The bravery, heroism and kindness that emerged in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were the focal point of social studies lessons throughout the Massapequa School District as the nation marked the 22nd anniversary.

Jason Gelardi, the curriculum associate for social studies, said that because today’s students were born several years after 9/11, it is important for them to understand an event that still impacts the world around them. Teachers showed videos and provided first-hand accounts of their experiences.

“It’s a rare moment in history when a teacher gets to teach something they lived through,” Mr. Gelardi said.

Massapequa High School social studies teacher James Koester talked about working near the World Trade Center when it was first attacked in 1993, as well as his experience as a Massapequa teacher in 2001. He explained the atmosphere in the building when students and staff started to learn what happened, and also focused on the many ways that people helped in the hours, days and weeks after.

“It’s history to them, but it’s current events to us,” he said. “I want my students to understand the heroism that overshadowed the evil.”

Janine Moretti was also teaching social studies at Massapequa High School in 2001. Because cell phones weren’t as prevalent back then, she recalled how many classroom televisions were tuned to the news.

“We were learning as it happened,” Ms. Moretti said. In addition to sharing her story, she showed her 10th grade history students “Boatlift,” a documentary about the boat captains who went to Manhattan to help people evacuate the island.

David Summers explained to his 11th grade U.S. history students that all historically important moments have a series of causes. He discussed the events that led up to 9/11, beginning with the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the formations of terrorist networks abroad.

In Michael Lisa’s 10th grade world history class, students visited the website of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. They watched videos and listened to audio recordings of survivors and first responders who shared first-hand accounts.

Ninth graders in Tara Camillieri’s class at the Ames Campus took part in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s Remember the Sky initiative. Invoking the clear blue skies over the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, people across the world are encouraged to take and post to social media photos of the sky on the anniversary. The purpose is to show that all people are united under one sky.

After some morning rain cleared, Ms. Camillieri’s students went outside and took pictures of the sky on their phones, then returned to the classroom to create mock Instagram posts.

At Berner Middle School, seventh graders in Kristen Steck’s classes watched “Man in Red Bandana” about Welles Crowther, who sacrificed his life to help others escape from the Twin Towers. Students then discussed the characteristics of good leaders.

Seventh grade co-teachers Kimberly Simpson and Susan Einhart led a lesson on empathy and sympathy. In watching a video about 9/11, students wrote down words, phrases and quotes that stood out to them on paper shoeprints. Because they were born 10 years after the terrorist attacks, they learned to “walk in someone else’s shoes” and try to understand how others felt who experienced the day.

Across the district, students and staff were encouraged to show their patriotism by wearing red, white and blue on Sept. 11.