About Cari Zall

Cari Zall has been a Social Sciences educator for over 12 years, in both brick & mortar and online environments. She currently works as the Curriculum and Instructional Support Manager for an online high school dropout recovery program, and is the Assignment Editor and a writer for The Educator’s Room, an online education magazine. Cari is certified in Gamification and has worked on several projects incorporating Gamification into online and traditional education environments. Her areas of expertise include Gamification and Student Resilience & Motivation; Conflict Resolution & Collaboration, and social justice education. Prior to her teaching career, Cari worked for 15 years in civil litigation and as a human rights activist in Northern Ireland and Washington, DC. She holds a BA in Conflict Analysis & Resolution, an Masters in Teaching, and an MA in Political Science. Cari is a James Madison Fellow, and is the author of the book, How to Finish the Test When Your Pencil Breaks: A Teacher Faces Layoff, Unemployment and a Career Shift. You can finder her on twitter at @teachacari.

This week was the 15th Anniversary of 9/11. It has been filled with people remembering where they were and what they saw on September 11, 2001.  This ritual will most likely repeat itself for many more years to come.  There is finally a memorial and a place where the event is commemorated in New York City – the footprints of the two World Trade Center Towers are stunning in their simplicity.

Like every one else who was an adult that day, I can recall every moment of fear and the distrust of my own eyes, and I can remember the feeling of surrealness that shrouded that day.  Most of my thoughts that day, however, were tied up with worry about into what kind of world I would be bringing my newly forming baby.  Two weeks before 9/11, I had learned I was pregnant and was still keeping the news close.  There I was, exchanging cautious joy for determined stamping out of irrational fear because for all I knew, we were about to enter World War III.  It was a scary day for everyone.

My son is now 14 years old.  He has no memories of September 11 and knows only the detachment of stories adults tell him of the Infamous Day.    He attended more anti-war marches than he was years old by the time he was six – his young life was surrounded by war.  His uncle (my little brother) was deployed 5 different times before my son turned 9 years old.

My son – and all our young students have never known a world where “terrorism” wasn’t an every day word.  They have had conversations about parts of the world, religions, terrorist attacks and other ideas that I cannot recall even knowing about when I was 14.  Like every American of their generation, their world is colored by an event they never experienced.

our young students have never known a world where “terrorism” wasn’t an every day word. Click To Tweet

Our students are growing up in a world forever dented by that day.  Their every day lives are less private and in their world, valuing privacy is a thing of past generations.  Even my former students, who are now in their early 20s, do not have a clear memory of it themselves; only the fear that was beamed down upon them by the adults in their lives.  Some had what I would call incredibly callous school officials who allowed the event to be shown on the school televisions to the very young children who could not possibly understand what was happening.  But even to these young people, that day 15 years ago is stuff of history and myth and legend.  Unless they are exposed to the “as it happened” footage, they often don’t even realize that there were multiple points of attack or the misinformation that swirled around that day–or just the utter shock the entire nation experienced together as it happened.

Teaching September 11, 2001 as “history”  to my high school students reminds me of how even our most traumatic experiences eventually retire to the annals of story and history class.  It is tempting to demand that everyone remember the awfulness, to keep alive our collective experience of it, our overwhelming grief of it – to not feel so alone in a world torn apart by the mystifying enemy of “terror.”  And that is what we still do.  Every September 11 is a litany of stories, a list of remembrances, a moment of silence to remember our beloved who perished in a calamity on a scale which we can still barely wrap our minds around.  And that is okay, because for us, it’s not history – it only just happened, it still hurts.

Even our most traumatic experiences eventually retire to the annals of story and history class. Click To Tweet

But while we still hurt, our students grow up in the shadow of that hurt.  Today, I am thinking that how we remember our own pain pales in comparison to how we raise our kids and teach our students in a world now shaped by that very pain.


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