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20 years later: Teaching the next generation about the 9/11 attacks

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Posted at 12:44 PM, Sep 09, 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Most of what history teachers take on happened decades or even centuries ago. Now, one of the most devastating days in the nation’s history happened in their lifetime.

Four Kansas City-area teachers spoke about where they were on Sept. 11, 2001, and how they’re teaching the next generation about it 20 years later.

On 9/11, Kirsten Nance, Zach Keith, Dillon Buck, and Andrew Long were all students.

“I remember being terrified and not really knowing what was going on, “ Nance said. “I was a junior in high school at Shawnee Mission West.”

Dillon Buck was in seventh grade. Andrew Long was seven years old.

Zach Keith was a freshman at Northwest Missouri State. Now, in his 16th year teaching at Platte County High School, he said he has watched his lessons on the 9/11 attacks change.

“At first, it was very much a group of students that talked about where they were when it happened,” he said.

The meaning has changed.

“It’s something that they really don’t understand,” said Dillon Buck, a teacher at F. L. Schlagle High School. “I mean, most of my students were born in 2005, so they’ve lived in a post-9/11 world.”

It's an interesting timeline for students.

“We weren’t there, and so we don’t have that, like, the first-hand experience,” said Platte County high school senior Maria Molinari.

However, she and others do say they feel personal connections to what happened.

“So my uncle was in the Pentagon on 9/11, and he was actually on the other side of the building,” Molinari said. “My dad is still active duty.”

“My dad was a firefighter during that time, so he knew a lot of people,” said Jake Knudson, another senior at Platte County High School.

He and other students want to know more.

“I still don’t know what the failures in our security were that day,” he said.

Keith wants to know what the students know.

“What do you and your group members actually know about 9/11, and then the second thing being what do you want to learn about 9/11?” he asked his class to help him plan his lesson on the upcoming 20th anniversary.

Each of the four teachers said having so many images, and videos of the 9/11 attacks and what followed helps them teach.

“We’re pretty fortunate to have so much video of things that happened, and I think that helps people understand how serious it was because they can watch it,” Keith said.

“And I feel like as a teacher now, it’s our job to provide context rather than just images. Let’s talk about why, when, where,” Buck said.

History is still writing itself.

“I’d say because of the pandemic, a lot of our students understand now, you know, a major event and the effect that it has on society,” Long said.

“And our students are growing up in a world that’s so divided,” said Buck.

Learning about the attacks in a different political climate is unique.

“The day after Sept. 11, 2001, was the most connected our nation has been that I’ve seen, and so I wish that they would get to experience a little more of that,” Nance said.

“There’s so many factors involved in a major historical event like this,” Keith said.

The teachers try to help the next generation understand a day that changed America.

“Working to make sure nothing like that happens again, and I hope I can be a part of that,” said Knudson.

Lindsay Shively at KSHB first reported this story.