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A piece of history: World Trade Center artifact makes 9/11 real for seventh graders

Amanda Parrish * Delaware
aparrish@doverpost.com
Dover Post

Nearly 20 years ago, America was changed forever when planes were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Seventh graders at Louis L. Redding Middle School were not born when the attacks occurred, but they have been able to touch a part of history.

The Freedom Flag Foundation gave Katie Wright, a Redding seventh grade social studies teacher, a piece of steel from the World Trade Center north tower on loan to teach her class about that day.

The Freedom Flag Foundation is a nonprofit formed to establish the Freedom Flag as a national symbol of 9/11 remembrance and to support educational teaching future generations about the attacks and lives lost. Appoquinimink schools raise the Freedom Flag for 9/11 ceremonies.

Wright is one of fewer than 25 teachers who have a tower artifact of the in the first year of the program. Jason Wall, whose friend is the foundation president, said they want a teacher in every state to eventually have a part of the building.

Wall’s wife, school board member Michelle Wall, recommended Wright as a temporary owner based on her excellence in the classroom, he said.

 “I immediately jumped on it because it’s a piece of the World Trade Center,” Wright said. “For my generation, I could tell you exactly what I was doing the moment I found out.”

Before the piece arrived, Wright talked with her students for four days about what happened September 11, 2001.

Staff members from Redding shared video testimonials describing what they were doing that day and their personal connections.

Wright was a junior in high school in Seattle. She said her experience compared to many of her colleagues. Some were in the middle of teaching when they heard.

Ethan Ziegler, a Redding seventh grader, said hearing their stories made him feel the pain they went through.

“When you heard it from the teachers, you understood everyone was affected by it,” he said.

The children took pictures, touched and held the metal. Alyssa Bush, a seventh grader at Redding, said it was sad to know how many people died that day, but it was exciting to hold.

“It was a surreal experience, since I had been learning about it and interested in the topic for so long,” she said.

Leading up to the piece’s arrival, Wright spent four day talking about what happened with her students.

“In social studies, it’s all very old or irrelevant to [children their age],” Wright said. “This made it much more real.”

Ziegler said though it looks like a part of any building, he could tell he was holding something significant.

“You could feel how important it is and how it changed so many people’s lives,” he said.

Sixth and eighth graders came by her classroom to take pictures and hold it too.

Wright said it was weird having it sitting in her classroom. She said her students felt conflicted thinking it was cool to touch and hold a bit of history but knowing it was a tragic day.

Until September, the piece is in a display in the hallway outside the main office.