FREEPORT, Maine — Most of them were just 1 or 2 years old when planes hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, but eighth-graders at Freeport Middle School are beginning to understand how that day changed the lives of Americans forever.
At a 9/11 ceremony Wednesday in Freeport, more than 100 12- and 13-year-olds stood and recorded Gov. Paul LePage and others remembering and honoring those who died as a result of the terrorist acts, and the military men and women who have fought in two wars since 2001.
“It feels so real,” Emma Carter, 13, said Wednesday. “I was only 2 at the time, but when you look and read about these people who lost so much in one day … I just connect with them and want to do everything I can to support the people who lost family and the people who are trying to prevent it from happening again.”
But Caroline Stairs, also 13, disagreed.
“It seems like it’s too much of a terrible thing to be real,” she said.
“I didn’t know so many people died,” Jack Sawicki, 13, said. “I didn’t know how the firefighters went into those buildings to save people.”
It’s all part of Shawn Favreau’s eighth-grade social studies class, to teach the students “about the first piece of history they were alive for,” Freeport Middle School Principal Ray Grogan said.
Students read news stories, watched interviews on TV and interviewed community members about where they were when the planes hit the towers.
Favreau said the students were visibly affected when they heard those stories.
Teachers planned to have their students create a video of their experiences learning about 9/11, Favreau said, but after some technical difficulties the students will watch the interviews and footage from Wednesday’s ceremony and discuss that day in class.
Favreau said he’s confident “from just the looks on their faces” that their awareness of its place in history has changed.