9/11: RECENT HISTORY

Monadnock Regional High School teacher Andrew Harrison teaches criminal justice to a class. Harrison is one of a number of area teachers discussing 9/11 in their classrooms. It can be difficult these days for teachers to convince students how much the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Jodie Ballaro was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sept. 11, 2001, and was walking her dog that morning in Prospect Park, about 5 miles from downtown Manhattan.

“I felt and heard a big boom and I started hearing sirens. A lot of sirens,” she said in an interview recently. Ballaro went home and up to the roof of her building, where she could see what was left of the World Trade Center towers.

Ballaro, now a social studies teacher at Keene High School, took pictures that day and planned to share them with her students to mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

“They see all the images on TV, but (I can) say to them, ‘I took this picture, that’s my roof, that’s my neighbor, that’s the smoke I was smelling,’ ” Ballaro said.

High school students today were 5, 6, 7 years old on 9/11 and may have few memories and connections to the events. They have only known a country with a Homeland Security Department and a War on Terror. They can’t remember boarding an airplane without first taking off their shoes.

For teachers, discussions around 9/11 this week are part history lesson, and it can be difficult to convince students how much the world changed in just a few hours that day.

“It’s almost like talking to these kids about cellphones — they don’t remember a world without cellphones,” said Andrew F. Harrison, a sociology teacher at Monadnock Regional High School in Swanzey Center.

Stephen R. Morris, a history teacher at Monadnock, planned to spend a few days on the topic. Morris grew up in New York and had two cousins in the New York City Police Department who worked at Ground Zero after the attacks. For lessons, he depends more on journal and newspaper articles, Internet resources and documentaries than traditional textbooks.

Back at Keene High, along with her pictures Ballaro planned readings from a new book, “With Their Eyes,” with accounts of the attacks written by students at a New York City high school near the World Trade Center that she hoped would resonate with her students.

John B. Curran, a history teacher at Conval Regional High School in Peterborough, said he tries to provide context when talking about 9/11 to help kids understand — from the history of Middle East relations to religious tolerance and national security.

Curran said his students today have less of an emotional reaction when talking about 9/11 than his students did a few years ago. “These kids don’t feel the shock. The Japanese hit Pearl Harbor, too. It becomes more clinical.”

Morris said he has seen a similar change in his students.

“Five years ago, it was very clear in their minds. They remember where they were that day,” Morris said. “But that’s fading as they get younger and younger.”

It was this idea that inspired the 9 Ten 11 Project at Keene State College over the past year to mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The project documented students’ memories and impressions of 9/11.

“In some way the generations of students at Keene State now are the last generations who will remember. That’s why we wanted to capture their stories,” said Nancy Lory, an education professor there.

Lory developed the project along with Rose M. Kundanis, a journalism professor at Keene State. This spring, Kundanis taught an oral history class, where students recorded 50 accounts from other students of that day. The class also discussed how journalists report on traumatic events like this and how that coverage shapes the public’s impression.

The oral histories covered a range of topics, Kundanis said, from issues of safety and security to diversity and patriotism. The 9 Ten 11 Project also co-sponsored an anniversary ceremony on campus today, where students’ accounts will be presented.

In Lory’s education classes, meanwhile, students discussed how the attacks affected young children developmentally.

“How did they make sense of it? How did their families respond? How did their schools respond?” Lory said.

“I think time will tell what the long-term impact will be.”

Abby Spegman can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or aspegman@keenesentinel.com