Students in Anne Arundel County to spend 9/11 listening to teachers’ personal stories

llumpkin@capgaznews.com

Kimberly Winterbottom was a graduate student at Salisbury University when a pair of planes crashed into the World Trade Center and killed thousands in 2001.

“I was in the workout room and I had earbuds in,” said Winterbottom, principal of Marley Middle School in Glen Burnie. “Someone ran in the room and shouted something along the lines of, ‘America’s being attacked and I’m serious!’ ”

Winterbottom said she was “glued” to the TV for the rest of the day. She had friends in New York and her uncle lived in Washington.

She will share her story with her students at Marley on Tuesday. Teachers will also spend the day telling students where they were and what they did on Sept. 11, 2001.

“We are going in and telling our stories, and students can ask questions because they haven’t been through it,” Winterbottom said. “The kids don’t understand the impact of it because it didn’t happen during their lifetime.”

Steve Erxleben, a social studies teacher at Southern High School in Harwood, shares two stories with his 10th graders every year on 9/11: one about seeing the Twin Towers grace the New York City skyline just five days before the attack and another about watching flumes of smoke escape from the Pentagon while at his wife’s grandfather’s funeral.

“It was very eerie,” said Erxleben, also the school’s head football coach. “This generation here, they weren’t even alive. They don’t know the impact. We’re still recovering.”

U.S. history curriculum in Maryland outlines guidelines for teaching the history of 9/11 to high school students, but no such instruction is required for younger kids in the school system, Winterbottom said.

High schoolers “evaluate United States policies and actions in response to international terrorism,” by studying events like 9/11 and the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, according to the statewide curriculum, last updated in 2006. They also learn about U.S. military intervention before and after 9/11.

All 81,000 students in the county will take part in a system-wide recognition of 9/11, which will include a moment of silence during morning announcements, said Bob Mosier, a spokesperson for the school system.

Although the majority of students in Anne Arundel County were not born when the attacks occurred, they have been affected by its aftermath.

“Afghanistan is still in the news. They’ve been living with it their whole lives whether they understand it or not,” said Michael Noonan, director of the Program for National Security for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. The Philadelphia-based organization specializes in providing resources for history teachers. “They should not only understand the context of it, but also the response.”

Erxleben said he is not required to teach the history of 9/11 in his U.S. government course, but he does mention it to his students. He plans to show old newscasts from the day.

“We’re training voters here,” Erxleben said. “We want them to know, what happens in the world does affect you.”

Winterbottom wants to make sure her students never forget what happened 17 years ago in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. She also thinks it will encourage her younger students to think about kindness and empathy.

“I think the kids will be surprised with how emotional it is for people,” she said. “We were being attacked. We read about wars in history books and nothing like that has happened in our lifetime. I think they are going to be surprised.”

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