Putting the events of 9/11 into perspective - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Putting the events of 9/11 into perspective

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Travis Roemhild is a reporter at the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Reach him at (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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Posted: Friday, September 9, 2011 9:00 am | Updated: 1:51 pm, Sat Oct 12, 2013.

Everything fades with time, especially memories and emotions.

I was 16 years old and a sophomore in high school when terrorists hijacked American planes on Sept. 11, 2001. But that day has become a faded memory and those feelings of fear and shock and sadness and everything else have faded, too. The biggest event of my lifetime and it is all but disappeared into the depths.

But I chalk that up to my age and the years in between - the emotional development and the widening of perspective. I had no idea then why terrorists would want to attack us or what the word "terrorist" really meant for that matter.

When you are 16, you feel invincible. Even though I was living in southern California at the time, where people were scared something else could happen, possibly to Los Angeles, which was about 30 miles west from where I was, I do remember I kept thinking, "These people have nothing to be scared of. It's over."

So we watched TV for most of that school day. In an afternoon history class, our teacher tried to explain some of the background and I remember learning about Osama bin Laden for the first time and how he had attacked the U.S. in the past. I remember watching President George W. Bush's speech.

I believe if I was in college or just a few years older, I would have felt more emotion than I did. But the key is that you don't really have good perspective about the world at that age. You're not sensitive to what is going on in the grand scheme of things and you can interpret the events in different ways.

That was why I was not surprised that the local elementary and middle schools in Ahwatukee Foothills, for the most part, strayed away from discussion about the events of that fateful day 10 years ago.

Horizon Community Learning Center and the Kyrene School District kept the televisions off. If 9/11 had happened years later, when smartphones were more prevalent, then maybe it would be a different story. Everyone and their grandmother would have a Tweet or Facebook post about it.

At Horizon, the administration opened its doors, not to just to kids, but the parents too, many wanting to know how to explain what had just happened, how to give their kids perspective.

"The phenomenon most interesting to me is we found unbelievable numbers of parents came into school that morning, needing reassurance," said Nancy Emmons, principal of the middle and high school at Horizon. "We sent letters home about how to speak with your kids depending on the different developmental levels. Then throughout quite a bit of time after that, it dealt with how much they should say to their kids."

Was this the best choice? Should they have let the kids watch the news coverage?

Parents have a heavy influence on how a child develops perspective on a certain event, and that influence varies depending on the age. So what they did at Horizon and Kyrene - let the parents explain what is going on - seemed to be the most logical choice.

"People were quite anxious that day," said Jeff Reisinger, a seventh-grade science teacher at Kyrene Centennial Middle School on Sept. 11, 2001. "If it was brought up, the idea was to say we understand, this is not an easy situation, but try to keep kids from focusing on it. If you focused on what was going on in the classroom, then maybe we could get through it."

As the anniversary roles closer, I think it is important to look at the terrorist attacks that took place 10 years ago and really put them into perspective.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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