I confess. I was watching Celebrity Apprentice with my wife when they interrupted the broadcast to bring us what would eventually become the news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. I’m not saying that to be cute or to try and tell a good story. (Though I do wish to do both). I never watch reality shows, and I certainly try to limit my intake of people as self-absorbed as Donald Trump for fear of being sucked in by their powerful personal magnetism.
But there I was on the evening of Sunday May 1st, cuddling with my wife, exercising valuable neurons to learn who Nene was, and why she hated skinny Star Jones. I made a comment about how it was too bad that Meatloaf’s real name was Michael and not John, so that the men’s team would be John Rich, Lil Jon and John Lee Aday. My wife laughed and told me to shush it, that they were getting ready to fire someone on the show.
Then the show was interrupted because the President was about to make an announcement. I joked that Obama was really getting back at Donald Trump as we waited listening to the broadcasters hint uncomfortably at the news that was coming. Then came the news that Osama Bin Laden had been found and killed. And we waited again, this time for the President’s official announcement and we watched an empty podium at the end of a long regal white hallway carpeted in red. When the President appeared, here’s what he said:
Since that announcement, the twenty four hour news machine that is the new media reality has spun together countless hours going over the specifics of the event, the decisions that led to the operation, the aftermath of the killing, the burial at sea, what to do with the pictures, and on and on. Most adults, by now have probably started to tune out the spin doctors on the left and right arguing on cable television about the minutia and extreme conspiracy theories that have begun to creep into the conversation. I don’t blame them.
In schools, however, it’s our job not just to teach our students about our subject matters, but about the world they inhabit; about the world they’ll inherit. It’s one of the reasons why assignments like the research paper are so important, especially going forward. Our students need to be able to find information, cross reference it with other sources, consider the sources, distinguish fact from opinion, then synthesize that information with everything else they already know about the world.
Most seniors at the high school were just eight years old when the attacks on September 11th occurred. Most freshman were in preschool or still at home, but hopefully not in front of a television. I was unloading children from a school bus in Lowell, part of my daily duty as the elementary school librarian. My oldest son was about to turn two years old in a couple of months, and I remember thinking about him as I looked up at the crystal blue sky on that Tuesday morning.
I can’t recall exactly what I was thinking, but I know that I was feeling pretty good about my life in general. I was a new father, had recently bought my first house, and was in the process of getting my certification to become a school librarian. That deep, beautiful blue sky that morning seemed emblematic of my future. Then a parent who knew I was originally from NYC mentioned in passing that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. I looked up again at the open skies, imagining a really bad pilot poorly maneuvering a small single engined plane. By the time I turned on a television in the faculty room, it was evident that it was a much larger plane that had struck the South Tower in New York.
I was watching as the second plane hit. Watching as the first tower fell. Watching as the second tower fell. Watching as the Pentagon burned. Watching as the story unfolded and I started learning for the first time of a man named Osama Bin Laden. And now, ten years later, he was dead. Left for consideration, however, are all the ways in which the world has changed in those ten years because of September 11th and Osama Bin Laden.
As a teacher, I don’t want to tell you WHAT to think about all of this. But I do want to tell you TO THINK about all this. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Why does it matter? Why is it news? Why is it so important that they could interrupt not just Celebrity Apprentice, but every single channel?
Sites Recalling The Events of September 11, 2001
- National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
- Inside 9/11: National Geographic Report
- The National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation, Inc.
- The 911 Digital Archive at the Center for History and New Media: American Social History Project/ Center for Media and Learning. City University of New York.
Thank you for reading, and may you have a great week.
Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2011. All rights reserved.