Teachers Educate A New Generation About 9/11
WHEELING — The sounds of silence rang out in the halls of Wheeling Park High School following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Across the river in Bellaire, students and their teacher huddled around a radio to learn news of just what was happening to the nation.
Retired Bellaire High School government teacher Michael Dossie — today a member of the Bellaire Board of Education — was in his classroom teaching that day and can recite the details vividly.
“I remember the name of all the kids in that class right now,” he said. “In fact, one of them was our (current) elementary school principal, Ben Doyle.”
He recalls then high school principal Mike Sherwood came to every room to meet with the teacher, and told them there had been a terrorist attack
“So I had to tell my students that the towers had just been attacked,” Dossie said. “They don’t teach you that kind of stuff in your education classes.”
Bellaire High School at the time was under construction, and there were no televisions yet installed in the school.
Dossie had an older radio in his classroom, and he and his students huddled around it. He said that is where they all were when word of the second tower falling was reported.
“The kids were asking questions, and I couldn’t answer any of their questions,” he said. “I don’t know whether we taught our regular lessons that day. We just tried to find as much information as we could.
“It was very difficult for us to find out information. We had no TVs (in classrooms) yet,” he said.
He said he continues to have a bond with those in his second period government class that day, and many of them text him each year on Sept. 11.
Dossie said going forward he had discussions with his classes each year about 9/11, and as a group they would watch remembrance ceremonies and listen to the names of those who died be read. He believes the memories and messages of 9/11 are being passed onto future generations.
WPHS government teacher Ryan Stanton was himself a high school senior at WPHS when 9/11 took place. He now recounts the happenings of that day and how those in school experienced it as he teaches today’s students.
“I have a real talk with the students,” Stanton said. “I think they enjoy hearing what the school was like when I was a senior here. They really listen to that. They know what it’s like on a normal day.
“When I explain to them there was total silence in the hallways that day, they find it hard to believe.”
Stanton said he had been asked to run an errand to another classroom, and he noticed the class and the teacher there absorbed with events unfolding on television.
As he wondered what was happening, those in the classroom began to whisper “a plane flew into the building.”
He said as students went from class to class “no one was speaking.”
“There was total shock,” Stanton said. “I don’t remember at what time … but it was after the crash in Pennsylvania when people became more anxious around here, and parents came to the school to pick up their children.
“There were no cell phones then and no outside communication. When you explain that to kids today, they are like, ‘Wow.'”
Stanton said he prompts his students to ask their parents and grandparents about their experiences that day.
He tells them the war in Afghanistan would result from the attacks, and that this would lead to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the restriction of personal liberties pertaining to counter-terrorism efforts.
“For the most part, the discussion makes them nervous,” Stanton said of his student. “They realize terrorism could happen anywhere and anytime. When I talk about what I remember, they realize it was something serious.”
Accounts of happenings taking place 20 years ago do resonate with today’s students.
Current WPHS senior Michael Borsuk was born in 2003, and he said he learned about the happenings of 9/11 by going through his parents’ collections.
“I know a lot about what happened because my parents kept the Intelligencer from that day, and I found it while cleaning up in the basement,” he said. “After reading it, it gave me a new perspective on the attacks. I believe that the attacks changed the world because prior to 9/11 we felt that we were rather protected by oceans, and we didn’t realize that there were indeed loopholes that allowed for it to take place.
“It still affects the world today because America’s sense of security has been forever changed. We take our shoes off at airports, and have greater scrutiny when attending any large event. Not to mention that the Attacks also brought out a changed perspective on who our ‘heroes’ are. After the attacks and even to this day, there’s been a greater respect to Firefighters, police officers, and the military, the everyday heroes who are willing to risk their lives to keep us safe.”
Current WPHS junior Alexis DiGiandomenico said she views 9/11 as “a day that changed American history.”
She said 9/11 brought to the nation a heightened awareness of national security, and the need for more security at airports.
“America came together that day,” DiGiandomenico said. “I do not think we are today. Politics has driven us apart, and we forget we are one.”