HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Today’s high school students were born in a post-9/11 world.
They do not remember the events of that day simply because they were not alive when the terrorist attack happened. Even though they did not live through it, Sept. 11, 2001, remains an important date in United States history that continues to be taught in schools.
Amanda Moneta, a social studies teacher at St. James High School, said she always starts the first day of her history class the same way.
“What’s your earliest historical memory?” Moneta said. “I had a generation of kids where it was 9/11, and that’s just not the case anymore. A lot of these kids remember the election of Barack Obama or maybe the Gulf oil spill.”
When she started teaching 15 years ago, students could answer the question, “where were you on Sept. 11?” Those students could relate to the event in a way this generation cannot.
“We have this empathy from remembering it, and we have all of these emotions from remembering it,” Moneta said. “It’s hard to, you know, you can’t push empathy on somebody.”
She said the key is to humanize the lesson.
“You have to look at it like that’s somebody’s family and that’s somebody’s child,” Moneta said.
That usually helps the students understand the gravity of the event.
“When you put that human aspect onto it, and you’re not just seeing it as something that’s in a history book, it really personifies that,” Moneta said. “I think they relate, and some of them get really affected by it because it could happen, and it did happen.”
Moneta was in college in Pennsylvania when it happened. She said everyone around her knew someone who was at ground zero that day. The relatability makes the lesson easier to teach, and she said living in Horry County helps with that.
“There are a lot of people moving to this area, and so a lot of our students come from New Jersey and New York,” Moneta said. “Some of them have parents that were first responders or an uncle that was a first responder, or some sort of recollection of a family memory that has come down.”
Moneta said she likes to center her teaching around primary sources as it gets the students engaged and asking questions. She has an artifact from that day that she uses in class every year: the front page of USA Today after the attack.
“I guess it’s the history teacher in me,” Moneta said. “Every time something really big happen … I would always buy a newspaper. What I love about it is that it really is a conversation starter, and my students will ask me about it.”
Moneta said teaching the events of 9/11 to students who were not alive at the time is a big responsibility. She knows she has done her job when students feel comfortable asking questions and having an open dialogue.
“When you look at something that is so tragic, it’s hard to talk about,” Moneta said. “When we create this dialogue, and we look at the sources, they open up and they ask a lot of questions.”