A Guided Exploration of the Events of 9/11

Historical Context | Heroes of 9-11 | Memorializing and Remembrance | Additional Resources

September 11 marks the anniversary of the tragedy that changed America and the world. It was an event that brought out both the very worst of humankind (as seen in the terrorist act itself) but also the best (as seen in the volunteerism and unity in the immediate response to the attacks, the solidarity and sympathy of so many around the world, and the community activism that continues to this day). You may recall, and certainly, your older siblings, relatives, teachers, or parents will remember what happened on September 11, 2001, as well as what happened afterward. Several aspects of this event make it a challenging topic to explore and present many issues to consider.

This interactive resource is designed to examine one important issue: What makes a hero? As an important first step, please review the events of 9/11 and its impact by exploring the National September 11 Memorial and Museum (in New York City) through its website. The website will introduce you to the many heroes from all walks of life who helped during the tragedy and those who have continued to give back to the community. You will also be able to investigate how we memorialize tragedies and heroes. Before proceeding further, visit the following links to see what has been built on the exact place where the Twin Towers once stood. Start by taking a Virtual Tour of the Memorial Site, which will show you how America is remembering and memorializing September 11, 2001. Then proceed to look at the following websites:

Historical Context: What Happened?

In this section, you will be working with an interactive timeline of the events of September 11, 2001, and exploring them through primary resources including video, text, audio. Open up the interactive timeline on the 9/11 Memorial site. You will be using the “Timeline” worksheet to analyze it. The worksheet directs you to different time-stamped moments of the morning of September 11. Study the thematic time stamps and select one to write a thoughtful 300 to 500 word essay that responds to guiding questions provided in the worksheet).

  • Why did you select this particular moment in the timeline of the events? Why did you find it so striking?
  • How many acts of courage and heroism did you find as you studied what happened? What were they? Give some examples.
  • What heroic attributes do you see reflected in the particular moment you selected? Are they positive or negative qualities?
  • Do you think you would have acted the same way under this circumstance? Why, or why not?

Part One: Heroes of 9/11

In this section you will identify the qualities of a hero based on oral history collected from the people who were present at 9/11. Using the worksheet “What Makes a Hero?” navigate to the 9/11 Menorial Museum Collection's Oral Histories to study the character attributes of first responders, recovery workers, survivors, etc.

  • Enter words and phrases from your research that you think can be associated with heroes and the qualities of heroes in the chart provided on the worksheet.
  • Compose one or two paragraphs explaining why the words you circled and entered in the chart describe or define heroes. Point out what these qualities may have in common. Discuss briefly whether or not these are qualities you think you possess.

Part Two: Memorializing and Remembrance

In this section you will study different ways to memorialize tragic events and their heroes and victims. Refer to the worksheet, “Memorializing” in order to analyze both the mission of the 9/11 Memorial and the different ways to commemorate heroes and pay tribute to victims. Explore the following examples of memorializing and commemorating:

After looking at these ways of paying tribute and memorializing, move on to one or both of the following activities.

  • Look at the different examples of tribute and commemoration from the memorial and museum and select one. Write a brief essay (about 300 words) discussing your choice. Why do you feel this type of commemoration is a great way to pay tribute to those who lost their lives or those who volunteered to help others? How is this particular tribute unique?
  • Design your own medal, memorial, or commemorative item. Working alone or with a team, decide to whom you will dedicate this work. Will it be an individual or a group? Then, choose your medium. (You might consider a painting, sculpture, drawing, or collage, for example.) Share your finished design or product with the class and explain to whom it is dedicated why you chose this medium to pay tribute.

Additional EDSITEment Resources

What makes a hero? Explore the EDSITEment lesson plans: