By Brian Knox
Originally published Sunday, September 16, 2001
For a generation of American students, they will remember being in class when they first heard of the attack on New York and the Pentagon.
“When I heard about what happened in New York, I was devastated,” said Decatur High School student Paul Warren. “I was upset that people could do something like that. To go out and kill somebody is just uncalled for.”
“I was in awe,” said classmate Ryan Hunt. “It’s not something you’d expect. We have such a good line of defense and then they take a plane and kamikaze the Pentagon. That’s crazy. It amazes me that somebody could do this.”
Pausing for a moment, Hunt thought about how the event could change the way people look at life.
“We take a lot of things for granted. I think we’ll see more emphasis on the importance of the people around us,” he added.
“A lot of people feel this is just the beginning of a major part of history,” student Drew Gage said. “A lot of people were comparing this to Pearl Harbor and some think it was even worse than that. … I think this will bring the whole country closer together.
Tuesday’s attacks were a hot topic of discussion in Susan Parker’s government class.
“I think it is so pathetic that there is so much hate in the world, that people would take a plane full of innocent people and crash them. They’re killing people they don’t even know,” said Rachel Riggs.
Emotions in the class ranged from anger to uncertainty to sadness.
“I was shocked,” said Alfred Malmros, an exchange student from Sweden. “Everybody thinks it’s horrible. I’m afraid of what will happen next. It could start a new war. I don’t think war is the solution for anything.”
U.S. and world history teacher Teresa Powell said the threat of war is one of the first concerns she heard raised by her students.
“The first thing they wanted to know about was does this mean war? We stopped class and talked about it more as it was happening,” she said.
There was much discussion in her class about the historical significance of the day’s events.
“I told them, ‘You are living history. Your children will read about this day in their history books.’ They will be a primary source because they were around when this happened and could watch the events unfold,” she said.
Ironically, the week of Sept. 24 to 28 had already been designated by the state as “Freedom Week,” in which Texas school’s were encouraged to celebrate and study the nation’s history and freedoms. That week’s activities will hold a special significance in light of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.
“We were just starting to plan the week,” Hilton said. “We are going to have veterans come and speak to our classes. I still think that will be very appropriate. I think that kids need to know that all out war is not the only solution. … I think that if the students could hear from veterans about the realities of war, it might make the kids think.”
At Carson Elementary, Principal Pam Holland said that she instructed teachers not to tell the students about the events as they were happening Tuesday.
“I felt like that was something that was more up to the family to explain,” Holland said. “(Wednesday) when the students came back to school, I told teachers that if any students asked questions about Tuesday’s events to answer those questions.”
That seemed to be the sentiment at most Wise County elementary and intermediate schools.
Holland said that if any student appeared bothered or upset, the student would talk one on one with a counselor or herself.
“We had some discussion with the fourth-grade students, but many of the younger kids just thought there had been a plane crash. I think some still didn’t know anything about it (Wednesday),” she said.
It will be lesson to be learned in another history class some day in the future.
Look for more of WCMessenger.com’s special 9/11 tribute at www.wcmessenger.com/911.