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 was only 1 year old when the twin towers fell and thousands died. I wasn’t old enough to remember watching on TV as the planes crashed into the buildings or as they collapsed. When I got older my mom told me stories of where she was when it happened. I watched videos of it and learned a lot about it in my social studies class in high school. I think this article is very good to show to others to remind them or teach them of the events that occurred on 9/11. Over the years, there are more and more younger people who weren’t born when this event happened so they do not know all of the details. It’s great that we are giving teachers lesson plans to help teach this tragic event. 9/11 should never be forgotten and everyone growing up should learn what it is and who all died because it is a sad part of our history. For those who do know what happened, it is always good to read an article or watch a video so we never forget.

  2. I remember where I was when the 9/11 attack occurred. At the time I was going to school and was standing outside, in the common area. I remember a lot of students running to their dorms and I was looking around trying to figure out what was going on. My friend and I went inside the Performing Arts building and went into one of the choir rooms where they had the news on a large screen TV. I remember we all stood or sat and watched as the events unfolded. In silence. I remember that all classes were cancelled for the remainder of the week, along with events.
    Another thing that happened was the local hospital has an emergency blood drive. I had never given blood before, however felt that it was something I could do to help. That’s the thing that bothered me the most is the feeling of helplessness. What could I do all the way over in Illinois? It was such a devastating time. It’s still devastating to think about.
    As someone that is now highly involved in EMS for the last 18 years, I have to reflect on my brothers and sisters that were there on the front lines. Even now, I feel emotional. It is amazing to me that, without a second thought or glance, these human beings risked their lives for strangers. These First Responders died so someone else may live. It is the ultimate sacrifice. I often question myself, would I have the courage to run into danger when others are running away? Would I pay the ultimate price so others may live? In a heartbeat.
    As we look back on 9/11, we cannot allow ourselves to forget. Simply for those that have lost their lives so that others may live. We must move forward and live out our lives the best we can to remember them.

    Never forget. Live to honor them.

  3. I was in 1st grade sitting in Mrs. Gilvin’s class. All of the teachers huddled in her room and turned the tv on. We then witnessed the second plane hit the south tower. I spent that night with my family on the front porch looking up at the stars searching for planes, because there was a no-fly order. As we get further and further from 9/11 emotions slowly fade and we forget how we felt that day. I could not agree more with “this is why a good social studies class is so essential today.” Growing up in the early 2000s there was so much pride in our country. We truly came together after that attack (from a child’s viewpoint).

  4. I remember this day very well. I am an RN and I worked on an OB unit at the time and I can remember being in patient’s room and the TV programs being interrupted by the tragic news of this event. The twin towers wasn’t the only buildings that were affected, a third plane hit the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., and a fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I will never forget watching some of the coverage of the event. Emergency service personnel were risking their lives to try and save total strangers. To me all these people are what I considered true heroes. It is very easy to move on with our daily lives and forget some of these tragic events, but for me this is one that will be etched in my memory forever.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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