9-11: LOOKING BACK...MOVING FORWARD
On PBS (Check local listings)
A half hour special from In the Mix, the award winning weekly PBS series; made possible by MetLife Foundation and produced in partnership with the American School Counselor Association as advisors.
Since September 11, we have heard conflicting messages that "the world, our world, has forever changed", but "itís important to get back to your normal routine and activities." Through the eyes of teens at Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School near "ground zero", as well as middle and high school students outside New York City in Tarrytown, NY, this program explores how the tragedy and ongoing events have impacted the way young people view the world and their future, as well as issues such as stereotyping and tolerance. It stresses the importance of expressing their feelings through talking, writing, art and music.
How to Use this Program:
Studies conducted by RMC Research on previous In the Mix specials have shown that these programs engage the interest of teenagers (grades 6-12, college), deliver information, catalyze discussion on critical issues, as well as promote analytical thinking and a greater sense of self-efficacy among teens. The aim is to encourage thought and allow teens to generate their own creative solutions.
In this guide, we have outlined specific questions based on the programís content, with answers. These questions can be used to open up more analytical discussion about related concepts. Also included are in-class activities and longer-term projects that are presented in bold type. We suggest showing the entire program to the group and then running individual segments followed by discussion. It would also be helpful to print out the transcript from our website www.inthemix.org.
In the Mix Awards
- CINE Golden Eagle Award for Financial Literacy: On the Money!
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- Entertainment Industries Council PRISM Award: Drug Abuse: Altered States
- Young Adult Library Services Associationís "Notables" list for School Violence: Answers From The Inside 1999; and Depression: On the Edge.
- Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Honor Roll of Quality Youth Programming
- International Prix Danube for Children's Television, Media Literacy: TV What You Donít See
- New York Emmy for Children's Programming
- National Emmy for Community Service Programming
This guide to 9-11: Looking BackÖMoving Forward contains four major sections which include questions, discussion topics, and activities, as well as a list of resources.
THE DAY EVERYTHING CHANGED
Students from Stuyvesant High School, 4 blocks from Ground Zero, and from Sleepy Hollow Middle School and High School, 30 miles north of Manhattan in Tarrytown, New York, talk about what they saw, heard, did, and felt the day of September 11, 2001.
1. The four students from Stuyvesant High SchoolóJukay (senior), Sophia (junior), Daniel (sophomore), and Meredith (freshman) órecount what they remember most vividly about the day of the attacks. What were some of their most dramatic memories?
seeing the World Trade Center on fire from a classroom window; seeing people jump from the towers; rumors about bombs; seeing people bleeding and covered with dust; seeing smoke; getting evacuated from the school; realizing that their parents were also afraid
2. What initial reactions did the Tarrytown students have when they heard about the attacks?
thinking about relatives and friends who worked in the WTC area; hearing rumors about other U.S. landmarks being attacked; worrying about local targets like bridges and power plants; concern at seeing military jets fly overhead
Where were you when you first heard about the terrorist acts on September 11? What were your initial thoughts and reactions? What were your thoughts and reactions as the day went on and you got more information?
Even though these students may live closer to the September 11 attack sites than you do, how do you feel that your experiences that day were similar to theirs? How were they different?
3. After the initial shock wore off, what did these teens find themselves worrying and wondering about?
they worried that another attack could happen at any time; they realized that America is not invulnerable; they worried that thereís no way to protect themselves in the event of another attack; they had questions about how God could let this happen and why some people survived while some didnít; they realized that nobody, not even the President or their parents, had any definite answers
Sophia said that they watched TV for a while, but "didnít think that was a good idea." Why did they feel that way? What role do you feel the media has played in the way people are reacting to the events surrounding September 11? Why does the media use dramatic headlines and images? What are some particular images or headlines that made an impression on you? Did the media coverage help you, or make it more difficult for you to cope?
Ask students to search for articles in newspapers, magazines, and news websites that cover stories related to September 11. They should look for at least one example of each of the following "categories":
--a story they found to be "Useful and/or Helpful"
--a story they found to be "Unnecessary and/or Frightening"
--a story they found particularly interesting or moving
Discuss each studentís article choices, touching on news elements such as objectivity/subjectivity, headlines, photos, and graphics.
NOTE: This activity can also be done in relation to ongoing events such as terrorism alerts, "Operation Enduring Freedom", attacks on the Taliban and anthrax reports.
HELPING AND HEALING
The students discuss the activities and people who helped them cope in the weeks following September 11.
1. What role did family members play in some of the teens' experiences?
they were there to talk openly about feelings and concerns; Aileenís father is a police officer who assisted with recovery efforts at ground zero; Byronís father worked at the World Trade Center and escaped safely; Sophia was hesitant to go to her parents for help because she could see they were under stress as well
2. What kinds of questions and expressions of emotion did these teens share with their family?
are we going to be safe at school; is our family going to be okay; whatís going to happen next; how will it affect us; simply hugging, crying, and emphasizing that you are "there" for one another
Did you talk to your parents or family members? What did you talk about? Was it helpful? If not, why not? Why is it difficult for some teens to talk to their parents? Do you feel that your family's reactions to the events were similar to yours? Did they seem to be coping better or worse than you?
3. Aside from turning to their parents, how did some of the other teens find help and comfort?
taking walks; being with others who had seen the same things; volunteering with the Red Cross; going out with friends; getting back to normal school activities
Describe some of the things that you did that helped you cope.
4. Why did these teens find it helpful to talk about their feelings with friends, parents and counselors?
by speaking up, they were encouraging other people to express themselves and opening lines of communication; they discovered that others feel the same way and that everyoneís "in it together"
5. According to school counselor Deborah Hardy, why is it better to try to talk openly about your feelings when something has upset you?
keeping things inside makes you feel isolated, which can lead to feelings of depression and not wanting to participate in normal activities; eventually, this depression can lead to thoughts of suicide; it can also lead to alcohol and drug use
Pass out index cards to the class and ask each student to write down who they would feel comfortable talking to if they felt seriously depressed and needed help (i.e. friend, parent, teacher, minister, neighbor, etc.). Collect the cards, read the answers anonymously and discuss the local options.
Ask students to take this self-test, which will help them to examine and recognize potential feelings of depression. Have them write down "yes" or "no" in response to each of the following questions: For the last two weeks or longer, (1) I have been feeling extremely sad all or most of the time. (2) I seem to have no energy. (3) Iíve lost interest in most of the activities I used to enjoy. (4) Iíve been sleeping much more (or much less) than usual. (5) Iíve been eating much more (or much less) than usual. (6) Iíve been having trouble concentrating, remembering, and making decisions. (7) Iíve been feeling hopeless about the future. (8) Iíve been feeling worthless. (9) Iíve been feeling anxious. (10) Iíve been thinking about how easy death and suicide would be. Suggest that if a student has answered "yes" to two or more questions, they should talk to their parents and/or the school counselor.
The students at Stuyvesant couldnít go back to their school for nearly a month, while the Sleepy Hollow students had no break in their regular school routine, which helped them feel better. How soon were you able to resume what you consider your "normal" routine? Did you feel guilty about returning to it? Do you think that your school administration gave you enough time and resources to process your feelings about the September 11 events? What else would have been helpful?
The Stuyvesant students had a videoconference with teens in Oklahoma city, which helped them realize that people around the country feel very much the same as they do. What do you feel are the universal elements that have united Americans around this tragedy? How have you seen people, especially teens, in other countries reacting to the events?
6. If you donít feel comfortable speaking to somebody about your feelings, are there other ways to express yourself?
yes; do something creative like journal writing, poetry, drawing, painting, collages, or sculptures
There have been many songs, photographs, paintings, and other works created in response to the events surrounding September 11. Are there any examples that you've found particularly moving? What purpose do you think art serves in a time of tragedy?
Create a September 11 memorial as a class. Ideas include:
--A painted mural in the school or community
--A "wall of healing" where each student decorates a paper brick
--A website with art and writing
--An album, with one page for each student, to remain in the school library
--A rock garden where each student is given a stone on which to paint their memorial
As a class, conduct an art-related activity that will help students express how they feel about death. Ask them to focus either on the death of someone close to them, or on their own mortality. Ideas include:
--Writing or drawing spontaneously on poster boards or mural paper taped to the wall
--Creating a collage using pictures and words cut from old magazines
--Constructing a "memory book" or journal using a blank notebook and decorated with photographs and magazine cutouts.
Ask students to think about someone affected by the events (a victim, a victimís family member, rescue worker, Afghani citizen). Students will write a letter to them using the following thoughts as a guide:
--How and when you think about them
--What you would like them to know about you
--What you would say to them if you met in person
--How you will remember these events
As a class, decide how the letters might be shared, such as read anonymously, mailed to themselves, sent up in balloons (use biodegradable balloons with no string), etc. Be sure to respect someoneís wishes to keep their letter and not have it shared.
As a class, organize a school wide Walkathon to raise money for victims. Points to consider include: which charity will receive the proceeds, where the walkathon will take place (school track, local streets, shopping mall, etc.), how to publicize and get sponsors, what to include in a kick-off ceremony. As an additional activity after the Walkathon is completed, students might be asked to write a short essay about their experience.
TUNING IN TO TOLERANCE
Students discuss issues of ethnic tolerance in light of the September 11 events, and we meet Abanty, a youth newspaper reporter and Muslim facing new challenges of racism.
1. Why did Abanty want to write about her experiences in her youth newspaper?
her uncle is a survivor from the Twin Towers and she wanted to show that many of the victims were Muslim; she had many emotions about the tragedy and writing about it was a release for her; she wanted people to understand how Muslim teenagers were affected; she wanted people to understand that Islam is a peaceful religion
What stereotypes come to mind when you hear the term "terrorist"? From where do these stereotypes come?
Paul says that "when we start judging and stereotyping people, itís kind of restricting the beauty of our country." Do you agree? What do you consider to be Americaís "beauty"? Is there anything ironic about problems with racism arising out of this tragedy?
As a class, brainstorm a list of 10 to 20 nationalities. For each nationality, discuss what comes to mind when they think of that nationality. Are the thoughts positive or negative? Supportive or harmful? True or false? Where did those ideas come from? Why do people hang on to negative stereotypes?
2. Do the teens feel that their attitudes and actions towards racism changed for the better as a result of these experiences?
yes; Abanty has many friends who are not Muslim and she feels theyíve all become closer; Adam is trying very hard not to be judgmental or to say anything that might be hurtful; students at Stuyvesant felt united and there were no conflicts because of race or religion
Do you feel that the September 11 events have brought out both the "worst" and the "best" in people? Whatís an example of the "worst" in people (ex. racism, violence, etc.)? Whatís an example of the "best" (ex. donations, volunteerism, strangers helping strangers, etc.)?
Create a list of countries from which large numbers of the U.S. population have emigrated; ask students to name as many of each countryís contributions to American culture as possible. For example, food dishes, music, film, literature, art, dance, etc.
Ask students to brainstorm a list of ways that they can help reduce ethnic stereotypes in their communities (ex. exhibits, ethnic festivals, film series, social events at places of worship, etc.). Choose one or more of these ideas to implement as a class or in partnership with a community organization.
Organize a "quilt of diversity" project within the class or the entire school. Distribute a block of paper or fabric to each student and ask them to dedicate the block to the country or countries that represent their ethnic background. Students can use collage, illustration, simple writing, or any other visual means to decorate the block. Assemble all blocks together into a quilt and display in the school or community.
FACING THE FUTURE
The teens talk about how these experiences have affected their view of the future.
1. How have the September 11th and ongoing events personally affected these teens in a positive way?
they have empathy for countries where people live in fear, where before they just had sympathy; they feel closer to their families; they feel like Americans have pulled together and united; they understand the importance of living each day to the fullest; they can put smaller problems in perspective; they've become more aware of national and world issues; Jacqueline plans to major in political science and become a diplomat to help foster mutual understanding
How have these experiences changed your personal relationships and daily lives? How do you feel they have changed the way you view your future?
Byron mentions that people in Israel have been living with the threat of violence for years. Research what other countries have or are experiencing this and why. For example: England, especially London; Northern Ireland; Palestine; Afghanistan; South Africa
2. What changes do the teens identify as some general changes that may come about as a result of the September 11 events?
the way we travel will be different; Hollywood may have a different attitude towards producing violent films; our personal privacy will be affected, ex. our bags will be searched; this will affect history the same way Pearl Harbor did
The teens discuss how the right to personal privacy must be given up in exchange for the right of everyone to be safe? How do you feel about this? What other rights might be affected? Will we become accustomed to living this way?
Tell students that they will be engaging in a writing exercise comprised of two different "journal entries". Ask them to imagine that it is exactly ten years in the future, and they should date their entries accordingly. The first entry will be entitled "Worst Case Scenario"; in it, students should imagine what their lives might be like in ten years, identifying possible negative effects of the September 11 events on many aspects of daily life. The second entry will be entitled "Best Case Scenario"; students should concentrate on their hopes for the future and envision all the positive things that might arise from the events. Encourage students to be detailed, putting all their worst fears and greatest hopes into words, and that no scenario is too extreme. Share and discuss as a class.
American School Counselor Association
801 N. Fairfax Street, Suite 310
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (800) 306-4722
National Mental Health Association
1021 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-2971
Phone: (703) 684-7722
Mental Health Information Center: (800) 969-NMHA
American Red Cross
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (only if space)
500 C Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20472
Phone: (202) 646-4600
Covenant House "9-line"
1-800-999-9999 (24 Hours/7 Days A Week)
A general hotline for teens with any kind of problem.
Girls and Boys Town Hotline
1-800-448-3000 (24 Hours/7 Days A Week)
Highly trained professionals answer your questions regarding problems such as finding counseling, family and school problems, pregnancy, suicide, chemical dependency, sexual and physical abuse.
1-800-SUICIDE (24 Hours/7 Days A Week)
National Mental Health Association
1-800-969-NMHA (24 Hours/7 Days A Week)
Practical information for teens, including free pamphlets on various mental health topics and referrals to mental health centers, hotlines and treatment facilities throughout the United States.
PBS Online: America Responds
Stuyvesant High School Spectator
National Institute on Drug Abusewww.drugabuse.gov
Youth Action Net
9-11: Looking Back...Moving Forward carries one-year off-air taping rights and performance rights. Check your local PBS listings for airtimes.
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c 2001 In the Mix. 9-11: Looking Back-Moving Forward is a production of Castle Works Inc. In the Mix series was created by WNYC Radio. This special was made possible by MetLife Foundation.