What our children learned about 9/11 and what they can teach us

Students at Murray Middle School in St. Augustine are putting together a performance as a way to pay tribute to 9/11 20 years later.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Most adults remember exactly what they were doing during the Sept. 11 attacks. It was the day American’s comfort and security crumpled like the Twin Towers. Hearts were broken as the number of those killed kept climbing to reach the appalling 2,977 people.

Anyone younger than 20 was not even alive during the terrorist attacks that changed our nation, but this new generation understands crisis. Many have lived through mass shootings and now they’re figuring out life during a pandemic. Fear and uncertainty is considered normal and coping is part of survival.

Students at R.J. Murray Middle School are finding a way to cope through the arts.

Catie Beam was a teacher at the school 20 years ago. She’s now part of the faculty.

“I was in eighth grade a student at Murray Middle School on the actual Sept. 11, 2001. In this exact room. So yes, I’ve come full circle,” Beam said.

Beam now teaches dance at this school of the arts and through choreography, her students capture the resilience of Americans after the attacks. Gianna Andriotis is one of those students.

“You can put your emotions in it and express how you feel without saying it and through your movements,” Andriotis said.

Dancer Connor Hinds agrees.

“If we can tell a story through body movements then we can tell a story pretty well,” Hinds said.

A story they’ve only heard from their parents and read about but the students have a clear vision of the horror on that day. Student Morgan Brown has done some research.

“I got it from this magazine that my parents have and I just started reading it and it was people’s accounts of what happened and how bad it was,” Brown said. “Then it was like really really, a traumatizing moment for everybody.”

These young artists are creating towers of loss, hope, fear and shock. Their pictures are their own interpretation of 9/11 and their art speaks for itself.

This is just a small part of Murray Middle School’s commemoration for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 -- students bringing their talents to the stage for a greater cause.

“I think what 9/11 did, as well, was it broke a sense of security in America. People realize that things like that can happen and it’s really possible,” a drama student at Murray Middle School told us.

“I think it’s really cool that we are teaching a new generation about this and it’s really a good experience for us because we can try to connect with them on a more emotional level,” another drama student said.

Theater students are also performing the play War At Home. They’re presenting journal writings of more than 40 students, teachers and community members in the weeks immediately following 9/11. It’s being delivered by a generation that’s living through a pandemic and understands loss.

“9/11 affected everyone, kind of like having to wear masks is affecting us now because it’s like a big crisis that everyone faced back then and they just faced it together,” another Murray Middle School student said.

“I’ve learned a lot about 9/11. I didn’t go through it but I have been able to understand how everyone was feeling. I’ve been able to talk about it more with my parents, talk about what they went through because I sort of understand,” another boy.

These students also understand hope, unity and survival.

The Murry Middle School presentation, “9/11 Remembered, a commemoration for the 20th Anniversary of 9/11,″ is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday. It’s open to the public and tickets are available on the school’s website.

About the Author:

Anchor on The Morning Show team and reporter specializing on health issues.