18 years later, a generation is coming of age with no memory of September 11th. So the question is how do you truly keep the promise to Never Forget?
For the last three years, Malinda Hurt has brought her seventh graders to the Stillman Valley Fire Station on September 11th. The Ogle County fire house is home to a piece of steel from a World Trade Center beam. Since 2017, students from the Meridian School District have been part of the unique 9/11 lesson.
“To be able to lay their hands on the Twin Tower steel and even though they weren’t alive, that builds that connection,” said Meridian Junior High School teacher Malinda Hurt.
“The students are very receptive to just hearing about not only the story of the fire service and what it’s all about but the events of that day,” said Stillman Valley Fire Chief Chad Hoefle.
Mrs. Hurt says she realized many of her students knew very little about 9/11 as they weren’t alive yet when the terrorists attacked. That’s when she decided to dedicate a unit where students write an essay about the events.
“Their paper is all about the impact on society,” said Hurt. “9/11 did not impact just New York, it did not impact just the fire service. They get to see those different impacts from the different resources we use.”
After a long process, Stillman Valley Fire was able to get a piece of one of the towers. People are welcome to visit the display case year round.
“The only time we open it is if we’re going to clean the trophy case and then when we have Mrs. Hurt’s 7th grade class here,” said Hoefle. “They can come in and can be a part of this.”
Organizers say the unique learning experience resonates with the students.
“We were able to show [them] a picture of the World Trade Center that we have over here,” said Hoefle. “Then, we explained to [them] that that piece of steel was actually in that building and I think he got a lot out of it.”
“The students just don’t lay their hands on the steel, they really take in and take a moment,” said Hurt. “For us, that’s not 7th grade behavior, that’s the behavior of a student that’s really understanding that this is a part of them too.”
Each year at the end of the year, Mrs. Hurt asks her students what their favorite unit was, she says a lot of them say it was the 9/11 lesson.