- Bedford Hills Elementary
September 10, 2021
Dear BCSD Community,
I write to you today, offering some thoughts as our nation recognizes the 20th Anniversary of September 11, 2001.
If you are like me you will never forget where you were and what you were doing on that tragic day in our nation’s history. I can share that I was a high school assistant principal in a nearby school district. When I first heard of the attack, I tried so hard not to believe it. Students returning from off-campus reported what they had heard on the news. I wanted to believe it was a terrible exaggeration. Within minutes, however, I learned the truth. In the hours that followed, I learned, like all of us, that terrorists planned and executed a direct attack on America. I learned that there were four planes that crashed that day at the hands of terrorists. What I also learned very quickly was that many members of the community I served, and my own family, would be touched forever due to direct personal loss and shared national grief. As a native New Yorker, I, like so many, would never be the same again.
In response to the attacks on 9/11/01, schools took on an important role, as we always do, in helping students and staff make meaning of an incident for which meaning would be almost impossible to define. We created systems of support for families in grief. I remember colleagues who lost loved ones at the World Trade Center and the struggles we all faced in finding the right words of sympathy and support. As educators, we grappled with how to teach a lesson in history that was evolving before us as current events. We created websites, we identified materials, we offered programs, and we reached out to families with age appropriate guidance and at-home and in-school resources as fast as we could identify them. We also worked with our students and communities to ensure the safety of all in face of rising Islamophobia. This was a time for community.
Today, as we prepare for the 20th Anniversary of this awful day that is now a part of our national psyche, we recognize that our BCSD students only know this date as another date in history. We will commemorate the importance of 9/11 in our schools with appropriate language that will make it accessible and safe for all of our students. To me, there are lessons I hope we can identify that will serve not only as a calendar remembrance of 9/11, but will also serve as a calling to our better selves as a nation since that fateful day and forward.
Over the years, we have identified 9/11 as a day of community service, a call to give to those less fortunate. Certainly, the reality of living in a pandemic today has given us pause to recognize those in need, those among us who have suffered significant loss and those who need our help. We rallied in 2001 and again over this past year and a half in acts of service to others and in coming together as one community.
9/11 provided for all of us an opportunity to recognize the selfless acts and personal sacrifice of so many first responders. Today, still, we recognize the vital role of first responders in our communities who keep us safe and who respond immediately upon any threat. Again, living in a pandemic today we have been given so many more examples of the commitment of so many first responders, frontline workers in health care and public safety, to whom we are so grateful.
Tributes were constructed in 2001 across our nation and right here in the BCSD. On the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, in 2011, Fox Lane High School constructed a piece of artwork, a huge mobile that still hangs in the North Entrance of FLHS. Included as part of this all-school piece of artwork are statements of hope and promise contributed by each student and staff member at FLHS at that time. I participated then as FLHS Principal. FLHS is constructing a new piece of community art that will commemorate the 20th Anniversary with hope and optimism for a better future. We will now, as we have in the past, use this historical moment to find our better selves.
My wish for all of us is that in remembering 9/11/01, in teaching today’s students about this day in history, is that we do not relegate it to a paragraph or two in a history book. Rather, we should make time to talk to our students in our classrooms, and for parents to talk to their own children at home, about all of those who came together on that fateful day. We have an opportunity to demonstrate to our children that out of horror and tragedy we found a way forward through service, community and hope. We honor those many lives lost on 9/11, we also honor the many who heeded to the call of service, and we recommit as a nation to the pursuit of what it means to be an American.
BCSD Strong! BCSD Stronger Together!
Joel Adelberg, Ed.D.