Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On This Day When "9-11"

My academic career was bookended by two "Where were you when?" moments. In 1963, shortly after I began teaching at Monmouth College, John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
In the fall of 2001, as I was beginning my retirement year, a green field, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center were indelibly linked in another tragic moment. Black and white television was another linkage for me. The first event was broadcast that way, but 9/11 first came to me in my campus office when a colleague called, "Do you have a TV? Something's going on in New York." I had a tiny little 5 inch black and white set that sat on my bookshelf and I remember rolling my chair over to turn it on and then leaning closer and closer: staring in disbelief at that grainy little screen. This could not be real.

Now six years later, on a larger color screen, I have seen debates on how much grief or commemoration is enough? Has it gone on too long? When do you just get on with it? Well, I'm not sure I've ever gotten on with the destruction in Dallas, so I am inclined to let each soul determine his or her own remembrance comfort level. Let the processing of 9/11 take as long as it takes you because it is a part of you.

Dealing with the pleasant and the horrendous elements of the past and making some sense of them for you and your students is one of the great challenges of teaching. There was no one way to make explanations in 1963 and there is no one way today.

Perhaps this will help. Hector, the retired teacher, in Allan Bennett's The History Boys says at very end of the play,

"Pass the parcel.
That's sometimes all you can do.
Take it, feel it, and pass it on.
Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, some day.
Pass it on, boys.
That's the game I wanted you to learn.
Pass it on."

No comments: