20 years after 9/11, educators teach the new generation of students

Local News

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Saturday marks 20 years since the United States of America was changed forever when thousands of people were killed in the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack.

Some can remember where they were on that day, however, grade-school students were born after the tragedy unfolded and teachers are trying to make sure students understand what happened on 9/11.

In McAllen ISD, Martha Cantu, a U.S. History teacher at Achieve Early College High School, and Linda Gonzalez, a history teacher at Michael E. Fossum Middle School, both say they can remember vividly where they were on 9/11. 

Cantu said, “I was actually heading home to Del Rio and I had the TV on and I was in and out of the room when it first started with something hitting the tower and then it’s another one.”

Gonzalez adds, “everyone was outside in the parking lot congregating around someone’s car and I was like what is happening and everyone was just in awe, in disbelief that this could’ve happened in the United States and then the second plane hit and that’s when we knew we were in trouble.”

Two decades later, many students today were not born before 9/11 but instead are learning about it in classrooms and 11th-grade social studies teacher Juan Carmona for Donna High School says he already sees the difference for the students who don’t share that memory. 

“You can see that they look in their eyes like they’re searching for something. So that tells you they’re slowly losing that connection, they’re slowly you know not even understanding what happened that day,” said Carmona. 

He says a way to make his students understand the effects of 9/11 is to bring up things in their life or around that could relate to it. 

“Just connecting them to something that they understand and that they physically see because that’s what you do as a history teacher you have to find stuff happening now that they would understand to go like that started here otherwise history is abstract,” said Carmona. 

For Aileen Campos, she says her connection to 9/11 comes from her uncle.

“Once the second bomb hit, my Tio (Uncle) called my Grandma saying that he’s going to go in. They needed to help there because the towers had just fallen.” Campos adds, “He called my grandma, he called my mom and my Tia telling them like this might be it, kind of saying their goodbyes because they didn’t know what was gonna happen.

Another teaching approach is humanizing the subject so students can begin to empathize for those who lost their lives on 9/11 like on Flight 93.

“Knowing you’re on a plane that’s going to hit something you have to get up in and fight and I guess I did the best to prevent it from happening but that on your head like this is it. But the details it’s sad,” said student Jack Garcia. 

Carmona says every year becomes more important when teaching students about 9/11 which is why they don’t stop learning about it the day after. 

“It will take a bit of time to really understand all the long-term short-term causes, all the things that were at play at the time which will be discussed throughout the year,” said Carmona.

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