Before the pandemic, about half a million people visited the National Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania each year. The visitor center details the events of the morning of September 11, 2001, when passengers and crew stormed the cockpit of a hijacked and foiled airliner by terrorists, possibly preventing an attack against the US Capitol.
A wall of telephones is at the heart of the exhibition. Grab one and guests will hear a farewell message left by one of the 40 passengers and crew for their families before the plane crashes into a field just east of Pittsburgh at 10:03 am , one hour 21 minutes after takeoff from Newark Liberty. The international airport, killing them all.
Tour guides often explain that these farewells were collected from answering machines. Young visitors often have the same question, according to Donna Gibson, president of Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial: What is an answering machine?
This question serves as a reminder, Ms. Gibson said: Teaching history to the 75 million Americans born after 9/11 – nearly a quarter of the American population – requires new tactics. As the 20th anniversary of the attack draws near and the events that rocked the world to that day move one step further from history, his organization announced on Monday the creation of a Flight 93 Heroes Award. to try to involve the younger generations.
“I hope this will inspire educators and parents to want to teach their children more about what happened on Flight 93,” Ms. Gibson said. She has noticed that over the years, fewer and fewer people seem to know what happened on the flight, or more broadly the events of September 11. His organization recently surveyed schools in Pennsylvania to find out how they approached teaching. about that day. Ms Gibson was surprised to learn that “there is no real formal education,” she said.
On its website for submitting applications, the organization says it is looking for people who committed acts of heroism in 2020. “Like those aboard Flight 93, they suddenly found themselves compelled to make the decision to ‘helping others, putting their own lives at risk. », Indicates the submission form.
The winner will receive an official plaque and presentation around September 11, Ms. Gibson said.
Ms. Gibson’s group is far from the first to notice that knowledge of 9/11 is eroding.
Jeremy Stoddard, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, surveyed more than 1,000 middle and high school teachers in 2018 to find out how they approached teaching about 9/11 and the war on terror. About 130 history, government and social studies teachers said they never told students about 9/11.
Of those who had taught courses on this topic, many said they did not have the necessary materials to tackle the topic. Teachers faced not only ignorance, but also “misunderstandings of events due to inaccurate information from family members or even conspiracy theories on the web,” Stoddard said.
Cheryl Lynn Duckworth, professor of conflict resolution at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, has written a book called “9/11 and Collective Memory in US Classrooms: Teaching About Terror”. In the research process, she spoke to many teachers. “The main barriers I found teaching about this were one, the time and the lack of inclusion in the program; second, emotional barriers (pain and heartache remain for many teachers); and third, self-censorship on a sensitive and unfortunately politicized subject, ”she wrote in an email.
She thought the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial Hero Award seemed like a smart way to spark interest in the events of 9/11 and the war on terror, provided the selection committee did not grant a excessive weight to military heroism. According to the criteria on the award’s website, applicants must demonstrate “courage at the risk of their own personal safety” and put “someone else’s physical well-being before themselves”.