9/11 Is History Now. Here’s How American Kids Are Learning About It in Class

Olivia Waxman:

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Lauren Hetrick was a 16-year-old sophomore at Hershey High School in Hershey, Pa. Her French class was just about to start when a strange announcement came over the P.A. system: “Attention, teachers: The computer tech is in the building.”

The teacher, hearing those words, logged onto her computer. Then she started to cry. She turned on the TV, and there was the North Tower at the World Trade Center, in flames. The class watched as a second plane hit the South Tower. Then the students watched the collapse of the tallest buildings in New York City.

Nearly two decades later, Hetrick has cause to see her teacher’s behavior that morning through a slightly different lens: She became a high school teacher herself, so helping students understand the events of 9/11 is part of her job too. This generation of students were almost all born after that defining 21st century moment, so while the attack may seem like yesterday to those old enough to remember it, to Hetrick’s students, it’s history.