A grade 7 pupil said today, “I have learned that 9/11 is not just a type of Porsche, but it is also about the Twin Towers.”
I did a display in my library on the World Trade Centre for a number of reasons. It’s the 40th anniversary of the Twin Towers (1973) It’s the 20th anniversary of the 1993 bombing of the North tower, and the new Freedom Tower is being finished this year.
Most of all, it is because the children still talk about it, but some strange ideas have crept in. After all, even the oldest in my school were barely born when it happened.
For instance, many think that the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lampur are the ones that were destroyed, and that Hitler bombed the Twin Towers in World War 2.
So I decided to set the story straight, and share what happened on that day, and some of the stories
that came out of what has been called “The day that changed the world.”
Most adults will remember 9/11. I was in Cape Town, and watched the surreal sight of the planes flying into the second tower, and the towers collapsing as it happened. We were in Muizenberg city hall that night when a low flying plane made us stop and cringe for a second, before we thought, “terrorists crash into Cape Town? Nah!”
There are so many amazing stories among all the terrible loss-of-life facts.
I watched a documentary about 14 people who were trapped in the hotel that stood in the shadow of the Twin Towers. First the one tower, then the other fell on the hotel, but those 14 people were saved by a steel bar that strengthened the hotel.
Why was the steel bar there? It had been the repair to the hotel after the 1993 bombing. Something the terrorists of the first attack hadn’t planned on doing!
And how about the sad but inspiring story of the passengers and crew on United flight 93 who were determined not to let the hijackers use them as pawns to destroy another building. The plane crashed, killing all on board, but a worse calamity had been avoided by the bravery of ordinary people.
And a bit of love among all the heartache was shown by the people of the small towns in Canada who took in passengers after US airspace was closed. Imagine the air traffic controller in tiny Gander when 37 jets showed up on his screen!
The town opened its doors to the 6700 passengers who landed virtually on their doorstep, supplying them with food, accommodation and medicine free of charge.
I think it is important to teach children about history. To make it alive for them, so that they can be warned, inspired and taught by people who lived many years and many centuries before them.