AUGUSTA — Never forget.

With ceremonies, classroom discussions and moments of silence, schools have tried to maintain the memory of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, ever since they happened.

In the immediate aftermath, students and teachers processed what had happened by talking about it.

The topic later entered social studies curricula as one of the most important events in recent American history.

Twelve years later, though, teachers are having to adjust their approach because now even high school students don’t remember that day.

That includes the freshmen in Jenn Tripp’s honors global insights classes at Cony High School on Wednesday.

“In a couple of years, I’ll have no one who knows what the feeling was,” Tripp said. “It changes the dynamic because they don’t have that emotional connection. I’d hate to see them not remember, because it’s a huge part of who we are.”

Tripp has talked about the attacks with her students on each anniversary since the first one. She added a new component this year, asking her students for the first time to interview an adult about Sept. 11 before coming to class on Wednesday.

Most interviewed their parents, but some chose other teachers. They asked questions suggested by Tripp, such as how the person found out about the attacks, what their emotional reaction was and what they know or believe about why terrorists attacked the United States.

Katherin Truman, 13, said her mother had been driving her to her grandmother’s house and heard the news over the radio.

“When she heard that, she was confused and she didn’t really believe it at first, but they kept playing it on the radio,” she said.

The stories that the students relayed echoed each other, with the adults learning what was happening through the news or calls from friends and relatives, then feeling shock and sadness.

Tripp told the students her own story. She was teaching at the old Cony building when a teacher down the hall summoned her to his room during third period. The other teacher’s students were watching the news on TV, and she got there just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

Tripp said she thought it was a movie until a student, who was crying, pointed at the TV and said, “It’s real.”

Later, hundreds of students and their teachers gathered in the library, but it was absolutely silent.
“The day for me is as clear as if it happened yesterday,” Tripp said. “I won’t forget it.”

As Tripp showed videos and a slideshow, the students talked about what they knew from previous conversations with their parents and teachers. They also asked questions to fill in gaps in their knowledge and about aspects of the attacks that they maybe hadn’t considered fully, such as the fact that two of the hijackers took off at Portland International Jetport, passing through spaces where some of the students also been have.

“That is so scary,” said Mckenzie Colombe, 14.

Though they were only toddlers in 2001, the students were affected in their own ways. Atticus Maloney, 14, said his mother, who is Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, told him she saw a change in his behavior.

“After I watched the whole thing, it was interesting because that was the first time I had bad guys when I played with toys,” Maloney said.

Truman said it was strange to talk about the attacks in class.

“It’s horrific because you were alive but you can’t remember it,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to believe that it actually happened.”

Bryant York, 14, said he appreciated the discussion on Wednesday, as well as the ones his teacher at St. Michael School had led.

“It’s one of the best ways to talk about it,” York said. “You get so many different perspectives of people who remembered it.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645
[email protected]

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