HSE 911 remembrance

Students at High School East walk to the school's 9/11 20th-anniversary remembrance ceremony, passing an American flag at half mast.

Sept. 10, 2021-- No student who is currently enrolled at Toms River Regional Schools was alive on September 11, 2001, but district educators have kept the memory of that fateful and terrible day alive for new generations of students ever since. On this, the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, teachers are utilizing new and creative methods to put into perspective the most important event of the 21st century.

It's a unique challenge, to make real an event that all district educators lived through, but which their students view only as historic.

Teachers like Katie Stein at High School North are exploring that dichotomy, particularly through what's described as the ripple effect. "You may be too young to remember the actual events of 9/11," reads the directions for her assignment to students, "but you’re not immune to the ripple effect. Write about how the September 11th attack continues to affect even those who have no memory of that day."

Thankfully, teachers have been provided additional resources over the years. The NBC News-produced video, "Too Young to Remember," is a visual and powerful means to start the conversation with young students about 9/11.

Brielle Verga at HSN will lead her American History I classes through the 9/11 memorial with a viewing guide, and then facilitate discussions about what students learned, and what questions remain. 

At Intermediate South, 7th grade social studies teacher Joshua Power will encourage his students to discuss the events surrounding 9/11 using a KWL chart - "What I Know," "What I Wonder," and "What I Learned."  After students have the opportunity to share what they know and ask any questions they may have, they will view a video from the 9/11 Memorial & Museum website. It features first-hand accounts from people who lived through the day and their unique perspectives. These people include a FDNY firefighter, a high school student from the Bronx,  and the mother of Welles Crowther (The Man in the Red Bandana).

Christine Morsch, 8th grade social studies teacher at Intermediate East, planned her lesson to focus on the heroes of the day, not the villains. In class, students will discuss who our everyday heroes are and then view the video "Call to Service: The Final Rescue of 9/11."  Students will then interview a family member or friend who is old enough to remember the day and share their accounts in class next week.

A similar theme and focus on the heroes of 9/11 guided Tana Walsh's 8th grade social studies class at Intermediate South. Students there focused on the everyday people who possibly risked their lives to come to the aid of those who needed help during and after the attacks. They also explored how trained dogs were used to explore Ground Zero and how they aided in the rescue efforts. Students identified a personal hero in their lives and the character traits that make that person a hero. Next week, they will write letters to these heroes in their lives expressing their appreciation and gratitude.

"I will continue to assign a 9/11 project until the day I retire," said Laurie Rose, HSE teacher. Although at the time, Ms. Rose was only in her first week of teaching, she is old enough to vividly remember the day, the events surrounding the attacks, and where she was when it all happened. She feels sharing these accounts with her students is an important way to teach the current generation about 9/11; a day that changed our country and made a mark on all of our lives forever.       

Story continues below.

HSE 9/11
A High School East student, wearing an American flag-themed face covering, makes the peace sign prior to the school's 9/11 remembrance ceremony held the morning of Sept. 10.
HSE flags
HSE student speaks

A High School East student speaks during the school's 9/11 remembrance ceremony.

While the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 is an ideal opportunity to teach, it also presents an opportunity to reflect. So while numerous discussions and lessons will take place in classrooms throughout the district, school-based events will honor that day and the lives that were lost.

"I will continue to assign a 9/11 project until the day I retire." - High School East teacher Laurie Rose

At High School South, Principal Mike Citta restructured the school's pep rally to include a 9/11 commemoration, during which a bell was rung 20 times to signify the years that have passed. High School East hosted a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony during second period on the school's front patio, where Principal Pat Thomas, school leaders, and students expressed their feelings about the day and its lasting impact.

Ceremonies, moments of silence, and opportunities to reflect and remember have taken place and will continue to take place at all district schools throughout the day and even into next week, proving that, 20 years later, the mantra of "never forget" continues to ring true.

Watch TRSTV's coverage of High School East's ceremony:

HSE Pat Thomas
HSE Principal Pat Thomas helps his school commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with some heartfelt words.