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Teaching Tough Topics: September 11th

In the years since planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York, the landscape of our country and our world has changed greatly. The difference in the time and number of actions required to enter the airport and board a plane alone are significant changes for our society. There is also a heightened awareness of and caution around the issue of terrorism, a word many didn’t even know – or certainly fully understand – until the attacks on September 11, 2001.
The historical differences and significance of the atrocious attack on our own soil can be hard to impress upon students. Most high school students now weren’t even alive when the attacks occurred. Of course, it’s not a topic appropriate to discuss with every age child either.
For those students who are old enough to hear about it, we have gathered some resources to help with talking points and answering tough questions.
A young girl touches a name on the 9/11 memorial on Sept. 11, 2011 in New York.
Grades: 6-12
Show students how America came together after 9/11 through baseball.
Grades: 6-12
Hear what visitors to the National September 11 Memorial have to say about their experience with the structure, and see some of the features they describe. After years of planning and construction, the 9/11 Memorial opened to the public on September 12, 2011. In this short video from NOVA Online, visitors describe the memorial as dignified, beautiful, and like the pyramids.
Grades: 7-13+
The layout of the biggest office building in the world, the Pentagon, is described. A graphic illustrating the five wedges and five rings is seen. On the morning of September 11th, some people inside the Pentagon figured out an attack was underway.
Grades: 9-13+
In this lesson, students discuss multiculturalism and the ways in which they celebrate diversity. Students view the photo essay in pairs or small groups and are given reflective writing prompts for students to demonstrate their understanding of the story.
Grades: 6-12
After September 11, the subway lines beneath had to be repaired. It took three months to flush out all the water and took a little over a year for the subway to be fully up and running.
Grades: 6-12
Passed overwhelmingly by Congress, The USA PATRIOT Act was a response to the terrorist attacks of 9-11, designed to empower both local and federal law enforcement in what the Bush Administration termed the "War on Terrorism." Since its passage, the PATRIOT Act has drawn criticism and support from Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians. Use this full-length documentary or clips from it to show students a balanced look at the PATRIOT Act including interviews with both pro and anti-PATRIOT Act lawyers, scholars and activists.
Grades: 6-12
Use this blog full of resources on exploring the events of 9/11 and the consequences through the lens of tolerance and cultural understanding.
Show students how the events of September 11, 2001, played out using these two interactive timelines that chronicle both the attacks and the Ground Zero recovery. Note: Both timelines incorporate videos and images from the attacks, so please view them first before sharing them with students who may be upset by the content.
Grades: 6-12
The attacks of 9/11 changed a lot of things in the U.S. and immigration policy is no exception. In this clip from Homeland: Immigration in America, an immigration attorney explains that prior to 9/11, anybody could send a visa application through the mail and get approved with forged documents. Today, however, the process is much more closely supervised, with visa applicants required to appear for an in-person interview prior to receiving their visa and coming into to the United States.
Grades: 7-13+
On September 11th, 2001, people were trapped inside the Pentagon, unable to get through blast-proof windows. Hear the stories of some of the survivors.

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How do you teach the events and impact of September 11? Tell us in the comment section below.