We Must Never Forget: Commemorating 911 with Resources for the Public and Educators

A firefighter breaks down after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Mario Tama / Getty Images

Dr. David Childs, D.D., Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

I was a young adult, a few years out of high school when I first learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. However, myself and many people around me did not realize that this was an actual attack, we assumed it was some strange freak accident, where a pilot had gotten way off track and his mistake ended in disaster. However, as that long day moved forward we soon realized that it was indeed a terrorist attack. This was a day that would impact me for the rest of my life, but for many students in my current college courses, they have no recollection of the event at all. Even more interesting, young people 19 and under were not even born during that time. In commemoration of the recent anniversary of the 911 attacks and those who lost their lives we would like to repost an article we published on this site a few years back entitled “What Happened on September 11? I Honestly Don’t Know.”

A firefighter runs as the World Trade Center crumbles.
Jose Jimenez / Getty Images

Originally posted September 12, 2019

What happened on that day?

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001 the al-Qaeda terrorist network successfully executed attacks against the United States using four commercial airplanes. The airplanes were used as missiles to commit suicide bombings on several key buildings in the US. The most damage was done in New York as they completely destroyed the twin towers at the World Trade center. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. The death toll increased even after the initial attacks, as additional people died of cancer and respiratory diseases related to the debris from the destroyed buildings in the months and years following the attacks.

Firefighters carry the flag-covered casket of colleague Lt. Dennis Mojica during a funeral
service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sept. 21, 2001, in New York City.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Where were you during 911?

For some, they were wrapping up the third period of seventh grade science class. Others were starting out their morning working at the office when they received “the call.” Still others were starting a routine day on their college campus. But for others, they have no recollection of the events, because they were not even born yet.

Lived Experience or Recent History

These events are for some people a lived experience in recent history and for others a historical event that they read about in history textbooks or learn of the events on an online resource. Many people across the US did not live through the events we know today as 911. Lauren Camera has written an article to this effect in USA Today entitled How to Teach 9/11 to Students With No Memory of It. Because we are in a time period where there are more and more people that do not have a vivid memory or lived experience of that time period, there will be more and more people who honestly do not know what happened unless they are taught information about 911. One of the important aspects of the field of history is that it reminds society of significant past events (Good and bad), events that had such an impact on people’s lives at the time that it would be a travesty for people to forget. September 11 is one of those events in history, that as long as the world exists, we should always remember.   


For many, it is obvious why we should remember and continue to make it a part of the collective memory of the United States (Much like the American Civil War or World War II). But a number of today’s young people may sincerely not understand why it is so important. That is why a good social studies education is so essential today, indeed the job of the classroom teacher is evermore critical. In many cases, the first time students will hear about September 11 is from their social studies teacher. Below I have provided lesson plans and resources that teachers can use to teach students about 911 and even get the conversation started.  

Lesson Plans and Teacher Resources

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans- 911 Memorial Museum

Middle School Lesson Plans- 911 Museum

9/11 Lesson Plans- National Education Association (NEA)

9/11 Lesson Plans- Scholastic

9/11 Classroom Activities- Newsweek

9/11 Lesson Plans- Teacher Planet

9/11 Lessons- Education World

9/11 Lessons- Tomorrow Together

9/11 Lesson- Teach Hub.com

9/11 Anniversary Teaching Guide- Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility

Footage/News Clips

Remembering 9/11: Watch Today Show’s live broadcast of Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001

9/11 FOIA Videos: Street-Level Footage, Aerial Shots (Viewer Warning)

Second Plane Hits South Tower

Remembering 9/11 | Archive Footage We Will Never Forget


Photos: Remembering those lost on 9/11

The Names on the Memorial

How to Teach 9/11 to Students With No Memory of It

The 9/11 Anniversary in the Classroom- PBS News Hour

While America Slept: The True Story of 9/11


September 11 Attacks- The History Channel

September 11 Attacks- Encyclopedia Britannica

History of the 9/11 Attacks

Discussion Questions

1. Where were you on September 11, 2001 when the terrorist attacks occurred?

2. Why do you think important events are often so quickly forgotten?

3. View some of the resources provided above (Articles, footage, news reports, images). What thoughts and emotions come to mind as you examine the material?

4. What are creative ways teachers might begin discussion about 911? For those currently teaching in the classroom, what are lessons or activities you have tried that have been effective in teaching about September 11?


  1. I’m one of those people who wasn’t born at the time of 9/11, which makes it more difficult to share the experience of others during this tragic event. To help present this lesson to students, I think it would be very helpful to have a visitor who experienced 9/11 to share a real-world experience during 9/11 including both their emotions and thoughts. Having a visitor come into the classroom also goes with your statement, “…a number of today’s young people may sincerely not understand why it is so important. That is why a good social studies education is so essential today, indeed the job of the classroom teacher is evermore critical.” Teachers can also use a number of online resources, including google earth and taking students to the 9/11 monument.

  2. I have no recollection of 9/11 because I was a baby but hearing and learning about the events is something that always interested me. This may have been because a lot of topics in history are events that have happened in the past but this event happened during my lifetime whether I have recollection of it or not. I was intrigued by the stories people have told me that do have recollection of the event to get a better understanding. I think the lesson plans are great because for students now this is another historical event that has happened in the past so finding good lesson plans can help with their understanding.

  3. 9/11 is not a date that I can recall because I was only 11 months old. So I learned the information and about this important date in middle school. Like stated in the article, “Because we are in a time period where there are more and more people that do not have a vivid memory or lived experience of that time period, there will be more and more people who honestly do not know what happened unless they are taught information about 911”. This is a very true statement. If we aren’t teaching about 9/11 in the classroom then our future citizens won’t recall this date in history. In 50 plus years the people who remember will no longer be here to tell their stories. I hear my family talking about where they were and their thoughts when they heard about the attack. I think about how I, as an educator, can teach citizens to use knowledge of the past to understand the present and inform future decisions. We need to help students learn from 9/11 and the war on terror, not just about them.

  4. I really enjoyed this article because it is so true, I have no recollection of this day. I was a one-year-old. But, for my parents and grandparents, it made a huge impact. My dad traveled for his job and during 2001, not many people had cell phones. My mom did not hear from my dad at all until he arrived at home a few days later. It is so crazy how different the world was before 9/11. It is also interesting how this day impacted certain people over others. I remember learning about 9/11 since 2nd grade. I think it is a hard topic to talk about, and it can be hard to imagine yourself in that situation. Hopefully we never have to face a tragedy like this again, but it is important to learn about and discuss within history and curriculum. Since 2001, our government and world has changed dramatically.

  5. Unlike many of my classmates, I remember this day vividly. While I might not have truly understood the severity of the event at the time, I can remember sitting in my sixth-grade class and commotion begin to take place between the team teachers. I remember the principal coming on the intercom to make a statement about what was occurring miles away. Even then I didn’t grasp just what was happening. But when I returned home from school to find my mom glued to the tv sobbing as she watched the news coverage, I began to realize it was serious. As I watched her mourn the loose of total strangers, I began to wrap my head around just how awful this attack was and question what it would mean for our country moving forward. While most kids in schools now see 9/11 as just another date in history, I view it as a day that I was forever changed and a day that I will never forget. Some of those images will forever be embedded in my mind. I appreciate this article and the intent to help educate younger generations of this tragic event in history so that those that gave their lives will always be remembered.

  6. When 9/11 happened I was only a little over a month old. I do not remember anything, obviously, but I remember learning about it in school where we would take around an hour to dig into it.I think important events are so quickly forgotten because our world is so quickly changing gears. It is sometimes hard for people to place themselves in other people’s shoes when this event occurred. Everyone who was conscious remembers where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with when 9/11 occurred- they all have that shared moment that us who weren’t there cannot relate to.

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