The teaching of 9/11 at one local high school

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Many kids in grade school and high school, who were born after September 11, 2001, learn about that infamous day through the eyes and memories of others.

For students at Boylan Catholic High School, a prayer from Pope Benedict XVI, who visited Ground Zero in April 2008, echoed throughout the school. The message was simple, no matter who you are or what religion you practice, we all stand together against hate and violence.

For many people though, like Boylan Catholic social science teacher Brett McAllister, the pain and anguish from  that day still feels fresh. He recalls watching the horror of September 11th play-out live on television.

“I was in high school then,” McAllister recalls. “The principal got on [the p.a. system] and told us there was an attack on our country. He told us our teachers would fill us in on some of the details and get televisions up so we could see what was going on.”

One of the things McAllister says he remembers from that day was the silence from above.

“Living close to O’Hare Airport, you’d see planes all the time, and that night, and for the first couple nights after, there were no planes whatsoever,” McAllister says.

Having lived through it, McAllister has many memories, but the kids he teaches do not.

“I could never know how it was being in that place because I wasn’t even alive,” Boylan Catholic junior Abraham Voelker says.

The history textbook students like Voelker are taught from has only two pages on September 11th because history textbooks, by nature, condense history. Therefore, it’s up to teachers and parents to fill that void by reliving their own first-hand experiences.

“My mom worked for the Register Star and was at a conference that day,” Voelker remembers. “She saw it on TV and watched the second tower get hit until both towers came down.”

And the images, a series of flashes that we role through in our minds, are indelibly etched there forever.

“I still get tingles after seeing the images,” Voelker says.

But McAllister thinks that while it’s important to retain those powerful images, they don’t have to be graphic to leave a lasting mark.

“I also think it’s important not to go too far with those images,” McAllister explained.

And in the end, the real goal is to remember those who we lost.

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