September 11th · september 11th tribute

How does your school mark September 11th?

Today we remember those whose lives were lost at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, in a rural Pennsylvania field, and aboard all four planes.

I’m compiling a list of tributes classroom teachers and schools do to mark the September 11th Anniversary.

Even though it’s been 14 years since our country was attacked on September 11th…

  • I still see gray smoke billowing from Lower Manhattan.
  • I still envision people walking up Third Avenue — in silence — in the middle of the day since traffic wasn’t on the road.
  • I still smell the choking fumes that changed directions blowing uptown the day after the Towers fell.

How have 14 years passed while these sights and smells remain so vivid for me?

I’ve written about September 11th on this blog many times because it is the day life changed forever — for so many of us.  But the kids who are in elementary and middle school now weren’t even born in 2001.  And the high schoolers are too young to remember that grave day.  September 11th, 2001 probably feels as distant to the kids in schools as D-Day and Kennedy’s Assassination did to my generation. (N.B.: I’m almost 40.) So how do we mark such tragic events for students in a meaningful way?.

.It is my hope to gather comments (below) about what you do in your classroom or what your school district does to mark this anniversary.  From there, I intend to post a list of remembrance ideas and read aloud suggestions in advance of the 15th anniversary of September 11th. It is my hope next year’s post will help those who do not mark this day to find a way to honor who and what we lost — in a developmentally appropriate way — on September 11th, 2001.

BTW: If you didn’t see this photo yesterday, I wanted to share it with you now:

Amazing, eh?

31 thoughts on “How does your school mark September 11th?

  1. I read aloud THE MAN WHO WALKED BETWEEN THE TOWERS, the story of Phillipe Petit, a tightrope walker and street performer who strung a rope between the North and South towers of the World Trade Center as it was being built and walked the wire to the astonishment of New Yorkers below. My third graders were not even born at the time of this tragedy, but I was living in Boston at the time, the origin city of those fateful flights. I want the reflection of history to not dwell in the details of the tragedy, but to focus on a positive story of bravery, courage, and a man who dared to dream. This story briefly touches on the towers demise, but is truly about the bold construction of the towers and a man who danced between them. The illustrations are phenomenal, much deserving of its Caldecott medal.


  2. I always read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, which ends with the ghostly image of the towers that are no longer there. It always brings questions from the children (kindergarteners) as to what happened to the towers, so I give them a very abbreviated story of what happened on September 11, because I want to preserve their wide-eyed innocence but let them know of the story of this day.


  3. Today I shared this post from Wonderopolis with my third graders: We talked about heroes and how people really came together to help each other on 9/11 and in the days after. We related it to how we can be a hero each day as third graders- what are the heroic things we can do in our own school? I am hoping to connect this to International Dot Day, which we will celebrate on our next school day, which will be September 16th. Dot Day is all about making your mark on the world, so I think there might be some nice connections to make. My school played the song “Proud to Be an American” this morning and we wore red, white and blue.


  4. Thank you so much for asking this question. I look forward to reading all the responses. Though I retired as of Sept. 1st, I am happy to speak about the tradition I participated in during the last 5 years in our PreK-Gr. 5 urban school.

    Located on a heavily trafficked street, the school’s front lawn provided the perfect place for students to assemble first thing in the morning for an outdoor ceremony filled with sights and sounds that I’m sure touched the hearts of drivers passing by or stopped in traffic.

    Like so many others, we referred to the day as Patriot Day, and focused on patriotism, as well as remembrance. Fifth grade student congress members led the 3-11 year olds, along with their teachers and aides, in pledging allegiance to the flag, singing patriotic songs, and listening to child-friendly and appropriate mini-presentations about the history of the day.

    Moving inside the building for a school-wide assembly, our Principal very movingly read September 12th…We Knew Everything Would be All Right, a picture book written and illustrated by first grade students from Missouri. At the end of the very reassuring reading, the Principal’s eyes were not the only teary ones in sight.

    God bless and keep safe all the American children—whether or not their schools or teachers hold special celebrations today.


    1. Thanks, Dana. I think it’s getting harder, as the years pass by, for us to find meaningful ways to mark this somber day. I hope that next year’s post will give teachers age-appropriate and sensitive ways to mark this day with their students who never knew what life was before September 11th, 2001.
      One of my favorite articles, written by Jordana Horn, Here’s an excerpt:

      >>But the thing that was truly lost on September 11, that no memorial will ever commemorate and that nothing will ever bring back, is the rainy New York day of September 10, 2001. On that prosaic day, we yelled at our dry cleaners for losing our shirts, and went to work pissed off. We ordered Chinese takeout and tipped the delivery guy extra for having biked through the dark, wet night. We ran out of shampoo, and wrote it down on a shopping list for the next day.

      On September 10, 2001, our “problems” were amazingly, beautifully small and mundane. Because on that day, there was nothing to remember, and we had no idea how grateful we should have been.


      1. Oh, I love that, Stacey. I’ll have to share it later (it’s blocked on my work network). It’s so true – we can never really capture what life was like “before” and how it is forever changed.


  5. We have a silent dismissal to leave for the day. Each classroom has a student hold the classroom flag to make a tunnel for the rest of the students to walk through as we leave. Each teacher silently leads their class through the tunnel on the way to their bus.


  6. Most of my fifth graders know what 9/11 was, but are still so far removed from it. I usually read 14 Cows for America and share photos of that day. I also tell them about how I vividly remember where I was, what I was doing, just like my mom remembers where she was when Kennedy was shot.


  7. I show this video clip as an engage:

    Then, my I read a short article about 9/11 to give students some background knowledge. I model a reading strategy with the article. Students then get to choose from 5 different articles about the search and rescue dogs of 9/11. They read and practice that reading strategy that I modeled. Many of my 5th graders have never even heard of the events of 9/11. There is also a picture book about Sirius, the police dog who died in the towers. It is a tear jerker.


    1. I remember Sirius, the Port Authority police dog. Strange as it sounds, I went out and bought a small stuffed dog that looked just like him and named it Sirius. He, too, was a hero.
      Is Hank Fellows’ book, Sirius, the hero dog of 9/11, the book you’re referring to?


  8. My post about the day…Thanks for reading it and encouraging me to share here. I appreciate you taking the time to plan ahead for the 15th anniversary.
    The thing that got me going on this is Kam had to interview someone for a school project on what they remember…It got me thinking and revising an old post from 3 years ago. And now, I am sharing it with you!
    The Circle City will be aglow in Rememberance of the 9-11 Victims.


  9. Thanks so much for this post, Stacey. As a native NY, I also lived through this tradgedy. I now lead a school in another state and struggle with how to appropriaty acknowledge this day I. our elementary school. Our middle school and high school Studnets will be watching Hope was Born on 9/11. It is a short video about a child named Hope who was born on 9/11. The idea is to challenge our students to do good deeds on 9/11 to honor those who lost their lives.


  10. I read FIREBOAT to my elementary students, and we discuss the events in an age-appropriate way. I also bring my photo albums of New York trips, where they can see the memorials, and freedom tower in various stages of completion. Sometimes I find a video commemorating the event, which usually elicits quite an emotional reaction by the students (perhaps too much so early in the year when I don’t know them all that well yet).


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