Joan Bauer - 
   Joan Bauer Joan Bauer - 
    Teaching 9-11







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"It's tough here, I know. We've all lost a piece of ourselves. War does that--it blows things up and leaves an empty place where something important used to be." from STAND TALL by Joan Bauer

Ten years.

Has it been that long?

We are about to complete a decade of resolve, healing, anger, courage, change, loss, grieving, leadership, loss of leadership, resilience, clarity, rebuilding, grit, hope, and faith.

We must tell the story, though each of us will tell it differently. Year after year we will add things and subtract, but the story of what happened on September 11th, 2001 will remain: the lovely fall day, the impossible news, the smoke that settled over the city, the incomprehensible loss and courage, the millions of ways New Yorkers survived and prevailed and grieved and so many helped.

This is not a children's story, although children lost parents and loved ones and a sense of safety. How do we tell them? How do we teach them about what happened? We begin, I believe, with where we were and how we heard and what we did next and what were the moments that we still hold onto.

Three days after the attack my family and I moved from our very safe house in Connecticut to our new home in New York City. We arrived the night of the first candlelight vigil, sat on a stoop and raised a flashlight to the sky. The smell of smoke was everywhere; it would last for so long, I don't remember how long. I've never felt such profound loss in a place. I couldn't think, I was so scared. My new office was unbearable; we'd chosen it because of the spectacular city view, but now that was a view of war. I would go up the stairs and start crying, and I was one of the lucky ones! My husband had been invited to a breakfast meeting at Windows on the World on 9/11 and he didn't go because we were moving.

Unpacking seemed impossible. I remember opening a moving box and seeing a little pillow a friend had given me, the kind that you hang over a doorknob. It had one word -- HOPE. I had very little hope then and, frankly, I found the pillow irritating. I hung it over a window pull in my office, such a tiny declaration against all the despair. Day after day I faced that puffy pillow with its challenge to hope. I'd head up the stairs, try to write, and I couldn't. Hope was not here, it was nowhere to be found. I remember glaring at the HOPE pillow and actually saying, "What do you know? You're a pillow!" But you know how it is with hope. It sits there in the toughest moments extending a hand.

I took that hand eventually and started to write, and I learned about taking small steps when I'm scared and lost. Just take one, if that's all you can muster. The next day, take another, then two, and after a season of this, you'll look back and see that you've covered some serious ground.

Tell the story. There are so many to be found. And each time you do, someone may get a little stronger.



I'm delighted to provide the new curriculum from the 4 Action Initiative, a collaboration of Families of September 11, Liberty Science Center, and The New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education.

Learning from the Challenges of Our Times:
Global Security, Terrorism, and 9/11 in the Classroom

Introduction — Table of Contents

Introduction — Guidelines for Teaching and Providing a Safe Space

Elementary School Lesson Plans and Themes

Middle School Lesson Plans and Themes

High School Lesson Plans and Themese

Resources and Websites

These lessons were developed and piloted in over 60 New Jersey school districts: "While there are lessons for all grade levels, teachers should adjust the lessons for their classes, always taking into account the ages of their students, the potentially traumatic nature of some lessons as they refer to violence, terrorism, and the tragedy of the day. We urge teachers to be especially mindful of the needs of our youngest students (K-3)."

Please visit their website,, for lesson plans, more information and links to resources.

White Flags Project

In 2009 this page reported on artist Aaron Fein's tribute to peace as part of our discussion on the healing power of art (see 2009: "Art Heals"). "It began as an expression of grief about 9-11," Fein says, "but it turned into a message about the future."

White Flags has been completed thanks to a grant from the Mellon Foundation and will be on display at Union Theological Seminary in Fall of 2011.

To learn more about this wonderful project visit his website at or follow on Facebook Flags can be sponsored ($250/ea).

From the short story, "Children of War" by Joan Bauer,
excerpted from 911: The Book of Help

     We are left with the images that we will never forget.
     They've been branded on our minds. They are part of us now.
     Part of our past. Part of our future.
     Gradually, the pictures will fade, the shadows will take over.
     We'll tell ourselves we should be over it now.
     But we're not over it.
     Not yet.
     Maybe not ever.
     I stand at the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights and look across the East River to where the Trade Center had been. I've walked here all my life, walked here with my dog, walked here with my friends. I've Rollerbladed and eaten pizza here, I've laughed, been kissed (once well, once badly), but I never cried on the Promenade until September 11.
     I stand next to the piles of flowers, the photos of the missing, the candles flickering, the flags flying, the people standing quietly in clusters, holding coffee cups, holding each other, remembering the smell of smoke and death that settled over my city.
     We are the children of war.
     They took our parents, our sisters, our brothers, and our neighbors.
     They turned planes into bombs.
     A perfect sunny day became a horror.
     We keep talking about where we were when it happened.
     We'll always talk about it in some way.
     "Where were you?"
     I was in school.
     The lights went out when the first plane hit.
     No one knew what had happened.
     Then gradually the news came.
     We'll tell our children about it and our grandchildren.
     Mostly, we'll turn it over and over in our minds, trying to make sense of what can never be understood.
     If there are solutions, I want to help find them.
     I think one of the ways to find them is through teaching. I don't know what really qualifies anyone to stand in front of a classroom and teach, other than wanting to make things better, wanting to share ideas, wanting to be part of a community of learners.
     I am a New Yorker. I smelled the smoke, saw the ash from the towers, felt the fear settle over my shoulders, had the nightmares, lit the candles, went to the funerals. I wish to God that none of it had ever happened and I thank God that I was here when it did. I've been changed forever—that much I know. And because of that, I want to teach. I want to teach because I want to learn and understand. I believe we have a choice in this world, we, the children of war. We can learn from the hate, we can learn how to stop it, or we can learn to hate even more.

Joan's thoughts over the years

2010: "I am remembering an extraordinary morning I spent at a New Jersey high school after September 11th with Donna Gaffney of the International Trauma Studies Program and another therapist. We were there to conduct a writing workshop to help students use fiction to process grief and trauma ..." continue reading

2010: "I have a shady garden and I've groused for years that I want one where I can grow peonies and roses and snapdragons. You can't do that in the shade. But there are wonderful plants that can only grow in the shade, like coral impatiens and ruby red begonias. I've learned these last years the power of shade and the lushness that can come from the darkest corners of a garden..." continue reading

2009: "I imagine in my mind a play that asks two questions: The first, Where were you on September 11, 2001? And from every part of the theater, people young and old answer..." continue reading

2008: "Today I am remembering, from all the memories of September 11th, the first plane ride I took after the terrorist attacks. It was two to three weeks after the attacks and getting on an airplane in New York was close to the last thing I wanted to do. I don't remember ever being so frightened about flying. I got to LaGuardia Airport, so grateful for the bomb-sniffing dogs in their yellow jackets, the armed soldiers watching everything and everyone. I got in line to board the plane to Chicago..." continue reading

Resource Links

From the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement
From the National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Podcasts and other oral histories in the multi-media gallery:
National tour exhibition film:
New York State Museum
Tribute Center
Familes of September 11: Support Resources
Library of Congress
American Red Cross
National Archives, Teaching With Documents: Lesson Plans
The "9-11 list-serv" distributes daily e-mails. The archives can be accessed at
To subscribe to the "9-11 list-serv", e-mail and put the word "subscribe" in the subject line.
The September 11th Education Project
Joan Bauer's Letter to a Teacher on September 11, Thoughts on September 11: Dear Teachers: Letters to Another Hero, Published by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in Voices from the Middle, Volume 9 Number 2, December 2001

The seeds of this page began in 2008 at a conference at the Liberty Science Center. The museum, along with the Families of September 11 and the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, brought together educators, scientists, therapists, nurses, physicians, writers, and politicians to discuss how to teach about 9-11 and terrorism. My continued thanks to them.

If you have broached this subject of 9/11 and terrorism with your students in the past, have lesson plans you would consider sharing, or just want to comment, we'd love to hear from you. Write us at
  • Invite students to explore and contribute to the September 11 Digital Archive
  • Talk to someone who has fought in a war.
  • Encourage student artwork and poetry that celebrates a better world.
  • Let students choreograph a dance to commemorate the anniversary.
  • Put up a poster so students can post their thoughts about the attack throughout the week.
  • Tell your class where you were and how you felt when you heard the news.
  • For High School -- Play "The Rising," Bruce Springsteen's song commemorating 9-11.
  • For middle school/high school -- Break the class into writing teams and have each team create a fictional character who experienced the 9-11 tragedy. Write a story about this together.
  • Read the excerpt from "Children of War" aloud in class. Click here for the text.

"...schools not only reflect 'official knowledge', but contribute to shaping it..."

Dr. Diana Hess

needs to be developed and shared with educators throughout the country."

Dr. Paul Winkler


"September 11 should not only 'be a day for mourning' — it should be a day to think about our neighbors, our community, and our country."

Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY)


9/11 is a National Day of Service.

For more information see: and

Or click on the links below for service opportunities:















"They marched. Not for themselves. They marched to remember the ones who didn't make it back. They marched because seeing so much loss can teach you about life. They marched because we're all fighting a war whether we know it or not--a war for our minds and souls and what we believe in." from STAND TALL by Joan Bauer

copyright 2011 Joan Bauer