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Connecticut Educators Remember the Lost, Create Connections for Students to 9/11

9/11 World Trade Center Flag. Photo credit NVinacco on Flickr.

Ten years have passed since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The losses of that day remain fresh in the minds of many Connecticut residents, however most children in school today are too young to have strong memories of 9/11.  CEA members are finding ways to create connections for their students to 9/11 while remembering the lives of those who were lost.

Stonington High Students Raise Money in Honor of Alum

This week Stonington High School has been commemorating September 11 and remembering one of their own who died in the World Trade Towers. Joshua Piver graduated from Stonington High in 1996 and the University of Vermont in 2000.  Shorty after earning his degree in economics, he went to work for Cantor Fitzgerald which had offices in the World Trade Center.

Ann-Marie Houle, a social studies teacher at Stonington High, graduated with Piver in the class of 1996. Every year when she teaches her students about 9/11 she does something to honor him.

Anticipating the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Houle and fellow social studies teacher Patrick McCarney began work last year preparing a week of activities in commemoration. A key element of the week was to sell emblems – red, white and blue pentagons reading “9/11/01 Always Remember” – to raise money for the Joshua Piver Scholarship Fund. The goal was to sell approximately 3,000, in honor of every person who was lost on 9/11.

At first the teachers weren’t certain how well the emblems would sell.  Students didn’t purchase many on Tuesday, the first day of sales. On Wednesday, however, students watched three videos. One detailed the events of  9/11, another was a tribute to first responders, and the third was a video Houle and other 1996 graduates had prepared sharing their memories of Piver.

Houle says the videos created a personal connection to the events of 9/11 for the students. After students viewed the videos, learned more about 9/11 in their homeroom advisory periods, and heard from Piver’s sister and a Pentagon survivor, sales of the emblems took off.  One junior even donated $500 of her own money to the cause. As of Saturday, $5,300 had been raised for the fund, well above the $3,000 goal.

“The preparation took a lot of work, but seeing the students involved has been very rewarding,” said Houle.  The week of activities concludes today with a town-wide ceremony honoring those who died in the attacks, the community’s first responders, and those in the armed forces.

New Canaan Students Explore Meaning of 9/11 While Designing Memorial 

At the other end of the state, New Canaan High School social studies teacher Richard Webb has used a memorial project to create a connection for his students to 9/11.  Last year he assigned his AP United States history students to design a September 11 memorial for the town of New Canaan. The students worked in teams using computer aided design to make mockups of their designs.

This past Tuesday community members chose the design created by Elizabeth Kilbride, Tess Litchman, Maggie O’Rourke, and Kelly Saiz, all members of the Class of 2012, as the winner. You can view a mockup of their design by clicking here.

Webb says his students were in first and second grade on September 11, 2001 and had a general awareness that something important had happened, but grew up curious about the event. The memorial design project was a way for them to learn more about 9/11 and explore what that day means for their community and the country.

Now that a design has been chosen, the students are working on getting the memorial built.  Webb says that New Canaan is an “amazingly supportive community.” The students will engage with the community to plan for the project, raise funds, and see their civic project to completion.

Webb was driven to take on a memorial project because of a personal connection to 9/11. One of his first students was killed in the terrorist attacks.

Brad Fetchet graduated in 1995 from New Canaan High School where he played hockey and lacrosse.  He attended Bucknell University and subsequently went to work as an equities trader for Keefe Bruyette and Woods. He was working at the World Trade Center in 2001.

Webb remains close to Fetchet’s family– founders of Voices of September 11 – and said about the memorial project that he felt “I have to do this thing” since the events of September 11 are so interwoven with his life.

Resources for Teaching About September 11

There are resources available to help students learn more about 9/11. The September 11th Education Program offers a national interdisciplinary program for secondary students with lessons that draw upon questions of history, government and citizenship, economics, and artistic interpretation.

The National Association of School Psychologists provides information to support parents, educators, and other caregivers helping children understand the many facets of the 10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001.

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