California Educator

October 2011

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A teacher's personal loss For Pete Simoncini, teaching about 9/11 is not just another lesson. The topic is deeply personal, this AP history teacher tells stu- dents at Oakdale High School during a Pow- erPoint presentation. Simoncini served in the U.S. Army for 23 A drawing in Billy Gene Coffey's classroom in Modesto. years, and worked at the Pentagon. One of the hijacked planes smashed right into his former office, which he vacated in 1996. Two summers ago he accompanied stu- One student, speaking in a soft voice, says that she would like to cook for people in the military. Another says she wants to work with homeless in town. And one student says that despite the danger, learn- ing about 9/11 has reinforced her desire to become a police officer when she grows up so that she can help others. Next, students write letters to those who are putting their lives on the line to save others, including soldiers at Edwards Air Force Base and rescue workers in the local fire department and sheriff 's station. "In your letters, please thank them for their service and willingness to risk their lives for our continued freedom and safety," says Stewart. "Let them know you appreciate the sacrifices they have made." As the youngsters write their letters of appreciation, Stewart says she is glad she made the decision to teach her students about the events of 9/11. "I was surprised at how engaged they were in the lesson and how much they understood and related to what happened," she says. "I don't think it will be a lesson they forget." story continued on page 36 dents on a field trip to Washington and visited the Pentagon. He saw the name Sergeant Major Larry Strickland on the memorial and realized that his former work buddy died that day. "When it first happened years ago and I looked at the casualty list, I didn't notice his name," says Simoncini, displaying a picture of his friend to students. "I broke down in tears when I saw his name. He was a great guy." After 9/11, the U.S. waged war in Afghanistan and Iraq, which also affected him personally. "My daughter and her husband are soldiers in the U.S. Army. She has served in Iraq, and her husband is now in his second tour in the Middle East. My son is in the Marines and just got back from serving seven months in Afghanistan, where he was shot at every day." Simoncini tells his 11th-graders that 9/11 happened a decade ago, but legislative and political rami- fications continue. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 resulted in the largest restructuring of U.S. govern- ment in contemporary history. The Patriot Act was passed to detect and prosecute terrorism, which some believe poses a threat to American civil liberties and privacy. "Do you know what a 'flashbulb memory' is?" asks the Oakdale Teachers Association member. Stu- dents shake their heads no. "A flashbulb memory is something that always stays with you as a defining moment in your life," Simoncini says. "I remember Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, when I was on problem 11 of a spelling test. There was a knock on the door, and someone told the teacher President Kennedy was dead. For me, that's a flashbulb memory." His students were in first grade 10 years ago and have their own flashbulb memories of 9/11. "I remember waking up, and my mom came in and sat on my bed crying," recalls Austin Jones, 16. "I had to go to school, but she was too upset to go to work that day. She had close friends working in Washington and was really worried about them." Liz Erwin, also 16, says she had been to New York shortly before 9/11, and was told that the building with the two towers she had just visited was destroyed. "I was 6 years old and didn't understand the repercussions of what was happening," says Erwin. "I had no idea how important that event was then and how important it would be years later. But now I do understand. I guess you could say that I feel lots of emo- tions today." Pete Simoncini, Oakdale High School >>9:59 AM THE SOUTH TOWER OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER COLLAPSES. >>10:07 AM AS PASSENGERS ON HIJACKED FLIGHT 93 MOUNT AN ATTEMPT TO RETAKE THE PLANE, THE HIJACKERS DELIBERATELY CRASH THE PLANE INTO A FIELD IN SOMERSET COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, KILLING ALL 40 PASSENGERS AND CREW ABOARD. 10:00AM 10:15AM >>10:28 AM THE NORTH TOWER OF THE WTC BUILDING COLLAPSES 102 MINUTES AFTER BEING STRUCK BY FLIGHT 11. 10:30AM October 2011 / 21

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