September 11
September 9, 2011

9/11 Classrooms, Then & Now

A teacher looks back on how he handled the terrorists attacks on that day, and now.

Shelby: When it comes to recent history, schools often have a hard time deciding what to teach, especially when classes are talking about events as significant as 9/11. And while some of you might not remember what you were doing when the Twin Towers fell ten years ago, most teachers will never forget where they were — in class helping students try to make sense of the attacks.

Mr. Knowler: It’s unfathomable, you know. It’s big.

Shelby: When the headlines hit Mr. Knowler’s classroom, time froze. His class at Southeast Polk High School in Iowa was supposed to have a test, but Mr. Knowler’s lesson plan quickly changed.

Mr. Knowler: You could compare this, I think, to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, as far as the magnitude.

Shelby: Sitting there watching history, his students were full of questions.

Mr. Knowler: ‘Now we’re all just angry at whoever did this;’ ‘So, was it just the World Trade Center that was attacked?’ I’ve got the same questions. What’s next? What’s actually happened? I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t claim to. They were just full of questions and, I mean, it was just that kind of day. There were all kinds of questions. And, really, nobody had the answer.

Shelby: A decade later, a new wave of students fill a new building. And Mr. Knowler is still teaching students about 9/11.

What do you know about the attacks of September 11th, 2001?

Student: I was in the 2nd grade, so obviously I was pretty young.

Student: I remember watching it a lot on TV when the planes hit the buildings.

Shelby: And these high schooler’s don’t really remember America before that morning.

Mr. Knowler: It’s been a lifetime, right? So, they’ve grown up with it. I actually had that conversation with my son. He said, ‘Since I’ve been alive, we’ve been at war.’

Shelby: 9/11 is now a chapter in their textbooks, and an assignment in American history. And the questions continue.

Mr. Knowler: In some cases, we do have some answers. But a lot of times, there are questions too.

Shelby: So, where were you on September 11th, 2001? And what do you remember about that day? We want to hear from you, so head to to share your memories with us.

Back to you, Jess.


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