PORTLAND -- At Faubion grade school in North Portland, teacher Kim Bess decided to depart from the lesson plan for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
She and a visiting reporter wanted to know what the sixth-grade children understood about the attacks.
“I want you to write down everything that you think of when you think of 9/11," Bess told her class. “What does that mean to you? What do you remember? What have you been told?” she asked.
Bess taught terrified students in the days right after the attack 10 years ago. It’s all the students wanted to talk about then. But over time, the topic faded. Students were too young to remember.
Many of these sixth graders were just 18 months or younger on September 11, 2001. Eventually the teacher dropped it from her 6th grade lessons.
"So what do you know about 9/11? " the reporter asked Elizabeth Monroe. “I don’t really know about 9/11,” the sixth grader said.
It’s possible the children are growing up protected by time and a lack of new attacks on America. The reporter asked Alex Lopez if he knew where the attack came from or why it happened.
“Um, no," Alex said.
Many of the children said the attack was never talked about at home. But Joviana Loyd learned about 9/11 from her big brother. “Well, I know that two planes crashed into the twin towers and a lot of people died. And if they didn’t die when it crashed, they chose to jump out the windows so they didn’t have to go through any more pain," she said.
Some of the children's answers contained facts that were a bit off. “I don’t know who did it, but like it was a distraction, so I guess the government could do something else while the people were focused on that," said Shayna May.
“What they've said is just people were trying to go somewhere and they made a mistake so they just went into the tower and then it fell,” said Amaya Golriz.
But others had a good grasp of the facts. “I know Osama bin Laden was behind it, because he was a leader of al Qaida and that's who all those people worked for," said Kobe Stout.
“I know that it led to the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, which led to the killing of Osama bin Laden recently," said Emil Zook.
Whether they understand the details or not, ten years after the worst terror attack in American history, the impact on these children was clear. They feel safe.
“Do you worry about terrorists attacking us in America?” the reporter asked Emil Zook. “Not really,” said the sixth grader. “How come?” asked the reporter. “I kinda feel safe that we have a giant army, and lots of American patriots that protect us,” the sixth grader said.
The exercise left their teacher conflicted - they were babies during the attack but many of these children know "something" about the attack.
Maybe its time to start teaching it again.
“I don’t know,” Bess said. “You've really made me think today, about whether or not it’s important to remind these kids every year about what happened or whether we just kind of, kind of let it go with what they know. And I don’t know. You made me think today.”