How the generation after 9/11 learns about the attacks

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A common question that comes around each year in September is “Where were you when 9/11 happened?”

But for a whole generation that question doesn’t make sense. Many were too young to remember and most weren’t even born yet.

22News talked with students at The Springfield Renaissance School about how they learned of 9/11 and the impact it may have on their life. We also spoke with a teacher who takes students on a trip to New York to see the memorial.

“It’s important to learn about it so those memories do live on. That those people who lost their lives it’s not in vain,” said Jamie Pirog, eight grade Social Studies teacher at the school. She teaches a 10 week unit on the subject.

The 37-year-old teacher was working as an intern at Disney World when the attacks happened. She remembers her mother calling her telling her to turn on the TV. Priog was supposed to fly back to Massachusetts on September 12th – but her flight was canceled.

“I have the students go home and record an interview with their parents,” said Pirog. “One, because their parents were alive when it happened. And two, students should be going home and talking about these events that happened because they’re a part of our history.”

Learning goals in Ms.Pirog’s Social Studies classroom.

Generation Z, is typically classified as born between 1998 and 2015.

Sydney Dodds, an eighth grader at the school, said it may be difficult to talk about 9/11 as kids in her generation become the majority of the population.

“I wasn’t alive then. I’ll just be telling kids about things that I’ve learned. Not things that I’ve actually experienced,” said Dodds.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, at the end of December 2018, the population of America was 328,221,727. People born in 2001 and after, make up 26.36 percent of that.

That means there are at least 86,519,247 people in the U.S. who do not remember or were born after 9/11.

“Eighth grade is a good year to learn more in-depth about it. But younger you can learn about what happened,” said Dodds.

Danielle Dorn, a 10th grader at the school, traveled to New York with Ms.Pirog to see the 9/11 memorial and museum.

“It didn’t feel real until I was in the museum,” said Dorn. “I felt my heart get heavy walking in to see all the faces of the people who died, and it really hurt.”

She said that learning about 9/11 and going to the museum helps her connect with the attack now when people talk about it.

“The aftermath is still occurring. In Congress you have first responders fighting for reimbursement. I feel after my unit I can relate to the current day stories happening and I can see it from their perspective,” said Dorn.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the mention of teaching 9/11 in the 2018 History and Social Science Curriculum Framework states students should:

“Evaluate the effectiveness of the federal government’s response to international terrorism in the 21st century, including the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., the Homeland Security Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.”

Pirog said that requirement is going away in next year’s State curriculum. But that she has found a way to include teaching the attacks next year.

Ms.Pirog’s material for the 9/11 unit.

In her unit she teaches the planning, aftermath, policy changes and Islamophobia that occurred after 9/11. She also has the students watch and listen to the videos and audio recordings from the attacks.

At the end of the unit the students write an essay on what it means to be Muslim in America and how terrorism effects the every day Muslim.

“When it happened it was this whole thing of never forget and that just kind of stuck with me,” said Pirog. “I want to make sure that those people who lost their lives are never forgotten. Because it’s important.”

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