ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — Like many of us, Rockford High School social studies teacher Bob Hieshetter remembers exactly where he was on Sept. 11, 2001.
He was standing at the front of the same classroom he stands in today, teaching Rockford High sophomores American history.
“We turned the TV on and then it just started to unfold. It was difficult,” Hieshetter recalled.
Twenty-two years later, it’s still difficult. But Hieshetter says it also a classroom motivator.
“It’s one of those days that I, more than maybe most days, I need to try to impress upon my kids this experience and what effects it’s had on today,” Hieshetter said. “It’s challenging. But when you start getting into the emotional aspects of it, the kids lock on to that.”
His American studies students this year were all born years after the attacks.
“You guys weren’t alive, and you don’t have the memories that I have and the emotions that I had. Man, it’s vivid. It’s still with me,” Hieshetter told the students Monday.
Recalling his emotions on that day and the days, weeks, months and years that followed, Hieshetter has made 9/11 a permanent part of his American studies lesson plan.
“It’s as important as any other event that I discuss with the kids; moreso,” Hieshetter said. “It’s vivid. It’s a memory. It’s not a book study. There is a difference.”
The lessons aren’t just about what brought the towers down, scarred the Pentagon and left a large crater in a Pennsylvania field, but also what came after that impacts their lives today, from the war on terror to the creation of the Homeland Security Department.
“How long do you have to get to the airport before you can get on your plane these days? Hour? I’d say two,” Hieshetter reminded his students.
The 9/11 lesson included a homework assignment: talk to someone who lived the 9/11 experience. The goal was to continue the lesson well beyond the classroom and well beyond the anniversary.
“For them to share those memories with you … (the) likelihood of it sticking with you for a greater length of time is higher,” Hieshetter said.
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum has a section on its website about talking with your kids about terrorism.