Lessons from 9/11

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, September 10, 2009

Even eight years later, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, continue to offer lessons to students and teachers alike.

Ernest Lindsey, a seventh grade social studies teacher at Andalusia Middle School, said he prepares a special lesson every year for Sept. 11.

“I like to incorporate the events into my discussion on heroism,” Lindsey said. “I like to show a documentary about United Flight 93, which was the plane that was aimed for the White House but the people on board managed to take it back from the terrorists. In class, we’ll look at those stories, and I’ll then ask the kids what it means to be a hero and to have honor.”

The seventh grade curriculum at AMS is split among lessons on geography, civics and “character education.” Lindsey said the events of Sept. 11 offer a great lesson on building strong character.

“In social studies, we spend a lot of time reading about heroes of the past,” he said. “But those people on Sept. 11, 2001 — they are heroes in our time.”

Most of the students in Lindsey’s class this year were only 5 or 6 years old in 2001, but the memories of that fateful day still stick in their minds.

“I remember that I was at day care,” James Albritton said. “They turned on all the TVs and told us all to get on our cots, and then our parents came to pick us up. I didn’t really know what was going on, until I went home and my parents told me what happened.

“It’s weird to think that we were alive to see something that’s a part of our nation’s history, now.”

While heroism and bravery are two of the lessons Lindsey teaches, they are not the only ones. He also is quick to point out to students that the actions of Sept. 11 were those of fundamentalists, not regular Muslims.

“Not everyone of the Muslim faith is a terrorist,” he told his students Thursday in preparation for today’s lesson. “In fact, it’s only a very, very small number of Muslims who are terrorists. We have to be careful not to say all people in a religion act exactly the same. These were extremists.”

Technology helps Lindsey to teach the lesson to his class. He can access a database of documentary footage on the Alabama Public Television web site on his laptop computer, and then project and magnify that footage onto the classroom’s whiteboard.

“It sometimes gets tearful when we talk about Flight 93 and 9/11,” Lindsey said. “I always try to give the lesson on 9/11 on Sept. 11 itself, because it just adds much more importance and significance.”

Lindsey is not the only teacher who uses Sept. 11 as a teachable event. Several seventh graders in his class said they also did projects and lessons in previous grades.

“We did a poster about it in sixth grade,” Alexis Lawrence said.

“Last year we did a project where we built a model of what happened,” Brandon Rogers said.

Regardless of how his students ultimately learn the lessons of Sept. 11, Lindsey said he hopes they remember those lessons the rest of their lives.

“These are important things for you to learn,” he said to the class. “I want you to hear the stories of these people who are heroes, and then when you’re older maybe you’ll have the opportunity to be a hero, too.”