Educators in St. Albans, Vermont are stepping in to ensure their students – the post 9/11 generation – understand what happened two decades ago.
“It’s 20 years later,” said Bellows Free Academy English teacher Kieran Kivlehan to his class, the week leading up to the 20th anniversary. While Vermont doesn’t require schools to include education about 9/11, Kivlehan has done a lesson on it for more than 10 years.
“Over the years, we’ve acquired different uses of media. Videos and different text books, particularly, Reports from Ground Zero by Dennis Smith, which is an account of everything from first responders, dispatchers, police officers, firefighters who were all present on the day at Ground Zero or involved in some manner,” said Kivlehan.
He says his own family members were some of those responders.
“My two older brothers were at Ground Zero at the World Trade Center, my brother-in-law responded as an EMT at the World Trade Center. My sister was a nurse who provided care at the World Trade Center, my brother-in-law was at the Pentagon,” said Kivlehan.
Kivlehan doesn’t plan these lessons alone. He and his colleague Michael Antoniak, a fire public safety educator at Northwest Career and Technical Center, design the unit together.
“We honor those who put their lives in danger to save other people,” said Antoniak, fighting back tears. For him, the topic hits home; he is not only an educator, but a first responder at Colchester Fire Department, Winooski’s former Assistant Fire Chief, and a US Army Vet.
“It’s our job to instill what it meant, that day, to so many people who were just going to work, you know, they were just going to work that day,” said Antoniak.
Some of the students are Vermont’s future first responders. They say learning about 9/11 is both powerful and inspiring.
“Me wanting to go into this line of field, it shows me how big of a responsibility it is,” said Senior Mackenzie Hutchins.
Teachers like Kivlehan and Antoniak say its imperative to teach the post-911 generation about one of the darkest days in American history so, they too, never forget.
“We were born later than when 9/11 happened so we don’t have any personal experiences with it, but learning about it, just feels very important to us,” said Senior Renee Sterling.
“The words, ‘never forget’ are the most important part of this story. You should never forget how much people did, how much people sacrificed, how much people fought to make it out alive or to save other people,” said Kivlehan.