Westerville high schools recognize 20-year anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks

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When asked to organize an observance of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the social studies department at Westerville North High School came to a few conclusions:

  • Teaching the event has changed over time as more and more students in school today had not been born when it happened. 

  • Teachers and students alike have experienced a lot in the last 18 months because of the pandemic and the department didn’t want to add one more traumatic, triggering event to their consciousness.

So WNHS social studies teachers decided to shift the focus from the events surrounding the attack. Through a video presentation to be shared school-wide, social studies teacher Damon Mollenkopf interviewed educators across the building, asking them to reflect on how the nation came together in the days, weeks and months after the tragedy. (Watch the video here.)

“It’s not so much on what they remembered but... ‘How have we moved forward?’ ‘What has changed?’ ‘What stories of heroism and positivity do you remember?’” he said. “One thing that is very vivid in my mind is when baseball came back. It brought everyone together and there were no political lines being drawn at this time. Everyone helped one another.”

This year, Westerville Central High School started off the school day Friday with a moment of silence. A group of students is assembling a commemorative slideshow on the event to be shared at a later date. At Westerville South, the school's show choir, Soundsation, performed a touring patriotic concert. 

WNHS typically recognized the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., when the attacks started in New York City. For the 10-year anniversary, the social studies department created a video where staff talked about their memories and experiences on camera.

For the 20-year anniversary, the video features interviews with teachers and staff. American Sign Language students sign the Pledge of Allegiance and the school’s orchestra and choir recorded the song, “When You Believe,” to be used as an audio track for the video.

Mollenkopf hopes to see the school commemorate Sept. 11 as a building-wide Day of Service where students, teachers and staff dedicate the day to serving the community through acts of service.

“Pearl Harbor was our entry into World War II and a lot of times we also talk about the sense of patriotism that it inspired,” he said. With WNHS’ video presentation, “let’s celebrate how we came together, let’s celebrate all the really good things people did.”