Turn on the TV! A plane just hit the World Trade Center!” I still get a chill when I think of that phone call from my husband on, September 11, 2001. And like many, I can still remember exactly what I was doing that day. I was in the middle of teaching phonics to my pre-school daughter, who was learning the letter sounds for the letters “R” and “F”. And my distraction (because we had friends who worked in the Trade Center) actually created such stress for her that it took her almost a month to master those letter sounds.

But, September 11, 2001 affected us far more deeply than just upsetting a day’s worth of schooling. It was a day that forever changed our country and the international community. It was a day that left many clinging to hope as they waited to hear from loved ones who worked in and around the towers. It was a day that stirred up long muted feelings of American pride. And it was a day that unified our people in ways we could never have imagined.

For me, it was also an event that opened my eyes to just how poorly we teach history. I have read the history books on Pearl Harbor; I remember studying D-Day as a teen; I have dug into the fall of Rome, the Dark Ages and the Medieval period. But I can honestly say that history for me was something to memorize for the tests. I don’t remember ever really connecting the dots between the events and the people involved. And I don’t ever remember analyzing the events in history in ways that would allow me to apply the lessons we learned from them to life today.

Why is it important that we care who our leaders are? Why should we be careful about compromising in the interest of international relations? How do we avoid making the same mistakes made throughout history? These are questions that should be addressed with every major event in history.
So in this post, I want to offer tools to help you present September 11, 2001 in a way that captures the horror, demonstrates the unity and patriotism, shows how that one-act of terror changed our lives here in the US and around the world, and helps kids connect the dots between what happened and why it matters so much.

This can’t possibly be captured in one lesson. But here is a short introduction lesson plan to begin the conversation. September 11, 2011 will be a day we will never forget, but I hope you can start the dialogue  from here and share with your loved ones.