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Denebola » Article » South students respond to September 11
50th Edition, Global Education

South students respond to September 11

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

By Adi Nochur,
Volume 41
September 28, 2001

On September 11, 2001, three hijacked airplanes smashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands of civilians and shattering nation’s confidence. This tragic terrorist attack has profoundly affected the American people.
Once news of the attacks broke, South Principal Michael Welch made announcements over the school’s public address system every hour with updates about the situation in New York and Washington.
Welch urged students to stay in their classrooms with their teachers or with a trusted adult, and while all afterschool activities were canceled, the day’s schedule continued as normal.
“I did not want to hold large assemblies because there is a certain contagious hysteria that occurs [at such gatherings],” Welch said. “I’d rather that teachers and students discuss [the tragedy] in small groups.”
The tragedy had a profound emotional effect on many South students and teachers, and different people are dealing with the tragedy in many different ways.
“I’m struggling to find the best way to respond to the needs of the whole community,” Welch said. For now, Welch is planning several optional forums about the tragedy in the coming weeks.
Some students were scared and distressed when they learned about the tragedy. “I felt as if my personal safety was in jeopardy,” junior Bryan Young said. “It was very disturbing witnessing an American symbol of defense being partially destroyed.”
Others felt disbelief and shock. “I’ve found it difficult to comprehend the scope of the attacks.  After growing up in a period of high economic prosperity and stability, it’s tough to accept that the U.S. is going to war,” junior David Tannenwald said.
The attacks have also affected South teachers, many of whom have some sort of personal connection to the tragedy, according to Welch.
“All the adults in building are taking this very hard,” History teacher Bob Parlin said. “Some of us are sad, some are angry, and some are struggling to understand what happened.”
South teachers are also finding themselves in a somewhat uncomfortable position as mediators for class discussions about the attacks. “I haven’t found students to have a difficult time expressing themselves, but I am trying to be sensitive to the wide variety of personal backgrounds that students possess,” Parlin said.
Welch was quick to respond to the attacks. At 7 a.m. on the morning of September 12, he called a mandatory meeting of all school faculty and staff.
“We met to discuss how to communicate factually and in a supportive manner what was currently happening,” South enrichment officer and crisis team member Donna Gordon said. “Last spring we learned a lot from psychologists who deal with trauma, and we used those strategies to create a supportive, helpful climate.”
As another part of the South response, Welch oversaw a student-led forum in the auditorium during J-Block on September 13. At this gathering, students shared their thoughts with their peers and suggested many ways for the Newton community to get involved with issues surrounding the tragedy, from creating a memorial to planning fundraisers for the victims’ families.
The following Monday, September 17, the Peace in the Middle East club held a J-Block forum in the lecture hall. This discussion was more intimate and focused on politics and opinions rather than ways to commemorate the tragedy.
While the students at the meeting agreed that action had to be taken against the terrorists, they were in a moral quandry about how the U.S. should react. However, most thought that a full-scale war against Afghanistan was not a good solution to the problem of terrorism.
Sophomore Kyle Brodie shared this opinion. “One of the key things is that we have justice, not retaliation,” Brodie said. “We’ve begun to declare war against Afghanistan, and Afghanistan has declared war on Pakistan because [Pakistan is] supporting the U.S. This is the kind of thing that got the other two World Wars started. That scares me, and that’s why I think it’s important that we do our best to keep peace.”
While many people take different stances on the terrorist strikes, most Americans can agree that their general attitude towards life has changed in the wake of the tragedies. As the American people continue to try and make sense of the attacks, the healing process will take a long time for the Newton South community and the rest of the United States.

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