Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Lesson Plans

On the 19th anniversary of 9/11, ask your students: How has the world changed?

September 10, 2019


Full Lesson



Read the article 9/11 to now: Ways we have changed along with the bullet points summarizing the piece. Then answer the questions below. You may wish to assign different sections of the article to different groups of students and have the groups report back as a class.

Then watch Billy Collins, the U.S. poet laureate on Sept. 11th, read a poem he wrote a year after the attack, called “The Names,” in honor of the victims. He read the poem before a special joint session of Congress held in New York City in 2002, and reads it again now in this NewsHour video from 2011.

9/11 Fast Facts

  • Sept. 11th marks the anniversary of the attacks when terrorist-piloted planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and crashed into a field in Somerset County, Penn. Each year relatives read the names of the 2,977 fallen.
  • Many changes have occurred in U.S. domestic and foreign policy after 9/11, including air travel, with Congress federalizing airport security through the passage of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Before 9/11, security had been handled by airports, which outsourced the work to private security companies.
  • More than 260 government agencies were created or reorganized after 9/11. The Patriot Act and 48 bills were signed into law, many of them related to counterterrorism work.
  • The U.S. entered the longest war in our country’s history in Afghanistan after the attacks on 9/11, which continues to this day. The terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden from Saudi Arabia, planned the attacks from Afghanistan with the support of that country’s totalitarian regime.
  • Anti-Islam hate crimes in the U.S. spiked after the attacks and many Muslims were subject to verbal harassment and increased airport security checks. In 2015, incidents of crimes against Muslim people reached 9/11 articles and continues to be a problem in the U.S. Read the Teachers’ Lounge article here to learn more.

Discussion questions

  1. What do you know about the attacks on September 11, 2001?
  2. How have the policies of the U.S. and other countries’ governments changed since 9/11? What about cultural changes? What are ways the world has changed that are not discussed in the story?
  3. Why is it important to understand how 9/11 affected the U.S. and much of the world?
  4. Why do you think family members of those lost on 9/11 participate in memorial events, including reading the names of the deceased?
  5. Does your school set aside time to discuss 9/11? If not, do you think a discussion is warranted? Why or why not?
  6. Media literacy: Have you seen any news coverage of the 18th anniversary of 9/11? What topics or images are being shared?

Extension activities

  • Read this first-person account, Column: I was there on 9/11. Now it’s a history lesson that I teach by English teacher Annie Thoms who had just started the school year at her alma mater, Stuyvesant High School, located four blocks from Ground Zero. Why do you think it may be important to hear a teacher’s perspective about Sept. 11th?
  • Then read the article What it was like to watch the 9/11 attacks from your classroom window about Thoms’ work with 13 young actors and directors at her school to create a play based on interviews with Stuyvesant students, faculty and staff. Those interviews captured what it was like to witness the nation’s worst act of terrorism and the emotions that followed. Why do you think the students chose to share their thoughts in the form of a play? What is it about the language in the play that makes it sound like poetry? Why does poetry often allow writers to express how they are feeling?

Excerpts from “With Their Eyes: September 11th–The View From a High School at Ground Zero.”

Kevin Zhang, sophomore

I saw this

huge plane it was…

it looked much bigger than the first one,

it just,

it looked like one of those jets, you know, in the movies,

you know, Air Force One or something, one of those big jets.

It was one of those and it just hits –

It hit the building right there.

Katherine Fletcher, English teacher

I noticed it enough to say to my class

what was that

sort of casually

I wasn’t scared or alarmed I just sort of said what

was that

and someone said


and I was like no

it’s not thunder

it must have been a truck

it was like the sound of a truck like hitting something on a street or

you know how sometimes you’ll hear something like that.

Hudson Williams-Eynon, freshman

We all went to art.

My art class is on the tenth floor


facing north so

we couldn’t see anything but

everyone was looking out

the windows


the teacher was like

“You know,

this might sound stupid and everything

but I still want you guys to draw.

You can tell your kids that when

the World Trade Center was



you guys were drawing

contour drawings.”

Juan Carlos Lopez, school safety agent

I got this weird transmission

the strangest transmission in my life

that a plane hit the World Trade Center

and I ran into the computer room to see.

I haven’t gotten back into that office.

The recollection of what I saw is framed in that window,

like if I had to draw you a picture I would

have to draw the window frame as well.

I’m a little apprehensive,

just looking at these banners I get a little choked up.

So I – I fear going into that office

I might lose my composure.

But it’s been long enough that maybe I could go into that office

and take it in

but I, I –

you know in a way I don’t feel ready, I don’t.

Katie Berringer, freshman

We didn’t know what was going on

so when we see this like

psychopathic lady running down the hallway

like “I need to call my mother, I need to call my mother!”

and we’re like

What is wrong with HER?

and we didn’t know what was going on so we were like

laughing at her.

But then we heard that thing on the speakers

but we still thought it was like

tiny and they were telling us out of respect

like when that guy died

and everyone had a moment of silence.

We thought it was something like that –

but I saw my friend and he was telling me

like about all those things he was seeing out the windows

and I was like holy shit

this is big.

Jennifer Suri, assistant principal, social studies

There were students who came into my office to use the phone

to touch base with their parents

to see if they were okay…

and there were actually many of them crowded into my room

and the electricity went out

momentarily and the lights started flickering and everyone screamed

and dropped to the floor, frightened.

And I just tried to comfort them.

Fill out this form to share your thoughts on Classroom’s resources. Sign up for NewsHour Classroom’s ready-to-go Daily News Lessons delivered to your inbox each morning.