A 9/11 Message to Elementary Students

courtesy of worldstatesmen.org

Like many of you, my school, Harold Martin Elementary, has direct connections to 9/11. One of our teacher’s sons worked for a New Hampshire Senator and was actually in the White House at 8:46 AM that day. Another teacher’s husband was scheduled to fly American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, but at the last moment traded with a good friend. Many of our current students had relatives who were among the 3,000 who perished. This week I received an email from a parent who is currently a pilot and will have to fly on 9/11/11. His son is terrified that he won’t see his Dad again.

It is against this backdrop that I wrote this brief piece trying to grasp the positive from what is a scary, confusing, and surreal period in our history, especially for the students at Harold Martin who were not alive when the decade old events occurred.

This Sunday, September 11, we will commemorate the events that happened 10 years ago on September 11, 2001. None of our Harold Martin School students were even born 10 years ago but many of your older brothers and sisters as well as your parents remember that day quite well. It was a scary and sad time for all of us as many people died in New York City, Virginia, and Pennsylvania that morning due to terrible choices made by a number of people who strongly disagreed with our country’s leaders and what the United States stands for.

But instead of focusing on this tragic event, we should consider the lessons we learned from 9/11:

Immediately after these events 10 years ago, good people around the world showed their kindness and love for each other by reaching out and helping save lives and support families who were hurt by this event. Fire fighters and police officers in particular showed great courage in risking their own lives to save others. Americans put aside their differences by coming together and showing the power of patriotism by reaching deep into their souls and finding the strength to love and help their neighbor no matter the color of their skin, their religious background, or how much money they had. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that we were all Americans and we would stick together. Soldiers sacrificed their time and lives to fight against those who might harm us and a whole country started taking our own safety more seriously.

So, again what are the lessons? We must show each other kindness and love. We must have the courage to do the right thing and protect and defend each other. We have to put aside differences and care for each other equally which sometimes means sacrifice.

I hope you will keep these thoughts in your mind as you hear more about 9/11 this weekend. If you ever have questions please feel free to ask your parents, your teachers, or myself. We all feel very blessed to have you as our students.

 

7 comments for “A 9/11 Message to Elementary Students

  1. September 10, 2011 at 4:43 am

    What a great letter. It truly brought out the passion that happened at our school today. Our school held a brief commemoration for the tragic event from 10 years ago today with a community pledge of allegiance around the flagpole in front of our school. I tried to explain in the most simple terms for our K-5 students what transpired 10 years ago and what significance it holds for us today. I must say it was very eery to hold this discussion as our weather was identical in its beauty. It was equally eery to see major airlines follow their routine flight patterns over our school, just like 9/11.01. Many parents joined our school in this public demonstration of honor to those who lost their lives on that tragic day. Even though many of the students had not even been born on that day they truly realized how much remembering the event meant to the adults in attendance. So many of our staff and parents had tears in their eyes and came up to me after the ceremony to thank me for holding the remembrance. Thank you for such a beautiful letter. I will certainly link it in my staff blog for next week.

  2. September 10, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Hi Kevin:

    Thanks so much for the kind words! The surreal nature of 9/11 is very enduring and I can’t seem to get past it. If an adult has trouble comprehending the event, how much more confused are our students. The best we can do is. Hadn’t thought about how significant it is that the kids can begin to empathize with the adults’ memory toward 9/11. That’s a great thought…perhaps commemoration helps to teach empathy, even in those who did not directly experience a tragedy. Thanks for that insight.

    Best,

    Bill

  3. September 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    My community, a suburb of New York City in which many parents and spouses of colleagues work in the city, was blessed to have immediately experienced only some dramatic near misses, but gratefully no fatalities for parents or spouses of teachers. On that day, we were not so sure. It was an eerie, frightening day – a school wide celebration of our “do the right thing” day was happening on that beautiful September morning, innaugurating our intensive character education program. Students and teachers all wore t-shirts saying “do the right thing” and we were participating in a day dedicated to the celebration of helping others. When another administrator first whispered to me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center I was with our fifth graders, who were helping our Kindergarteners to plant flowers on the school grounds. As the day unfolded we set up a television in the faculty room where teachers listened intently to the news and checked in with loved ones in lower Manhattan, while at the same time we continued on with our school celebrations, not to unnerve our students before we determined what to tell them. For the first several years after 9/11/01 we had moving, age appropriate commemorations, but as the years passed and fewer and fewer of our Lower School students remembered the day we stopped. Since 9/11/01 we have grappled thoughtfully with responsible ways of addressing frightening news events with children, striving as a rule of thumb to create spaces where we talk regularly, answer questions honestly, and make a sincere effort not give more information than children are ready to absorb. This year, in our ongoing attempt to interpret that guidance, our school psychologist recommended that we not address September 11th in our Lower School.

    Potent memories have prevented me from ever holding another “Do the Right Thing” Day but your thoughtful post causes me to reconsider. Perhaps September 11th every year at our school should be a “Do the Right Thing” Day on which we acknowledge goodness, both ordinary, everyday goodness and more courageous acts in the face of adversity. Perhaps that is the most appropriate way to honor the memory of those who perished and those who helped on September 11, 2001. I will raise the question within our school community. Thank you for helping me to think and perhaps to recognize some humble ways of claiming our history in ways that support us to develop as communities more capable of facing the future.

  4. Joseph Piazza
    September 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Bill,

    Thank you for sharing this with us. It was a great foundation for our presentation this morning at our Morning Line Up where share the Pledge of Allegience, Morning Announcements, and a Patriot/ School Spirit Song. I am grateful for the resource.

  5. September 12, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Hi Joe:

    I am honored that you could use it as a resource! I hope the presentation went well.

  6. Robin
    September 8, 2014 at 1:43 am

    Bill,
    I loved the wording of your message, and that it is understandable for younger children. I was asked by my school principal to do something on the morning video announcements to commemorate the 9/11 anniversary on Thursday. I would like to use your words while showing pictures that signify the “power of patriotism” as you so eloquently put it. I don’t know if I will get a response from you as it is so close to the 9/11 anniversary but please know that I will give you all the credit for your words. Thank you for writing them and for sharing them with us.

    Robin Martin
    Wichita Falls, TX

    • September 8, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Hi Robin:

      I’m honored that you will use my words! It’s hard to know what to say when our kids weren’t even alive then…there’s a balance between awareness and scaring them.

      I took a trip to NYC this summer and finally visited Ground Zero and the museum. If you haven’t done it, please do…after a few hours though, my wife, son, and I decided we had to leave-it’s pretty emotional.

      I hope you have a great year and thanks again.

      Bill

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