9/11 20 years later: Teaching a new generation of students

9/11 20 years later
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 08: People pause at the September 11th Memorial on September 8, 2021 in New York City. New York City and much of the nation are preparing for the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in both New York City and Washington D.C. The United States has officially ended its participation in the war in Afghanistan, a two-decade-long conflict that began shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Almost 2,500 U.S. service members have died in the conflict, and thousands of Afghan troops, police personnel and civilians have also been killed. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Photo credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images

All this week here on WCCO Radio, we are taking time to remember the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in U.S. history in our series, 9/11: 20 Years Later.

When the attacks first happened, classes were cathartic and emotional. How do educators continue to teach students about the devastating tragedy when fewer and fewer have emotional ties or experiences? To this year's college students, 9/11 is history. Instead of where-were-you-that-day stories or emotional memories, it's grainy video footage. College freshmen were not yet born.

Christopher Michaelson, professor of business ethics at the University of St. Thomas and academic director of the Melrose & The Toro Company Center for Principled Leadership, has taught students about the historic tragedy for almost 20 years after transitioning from full-time management consultant to academia. His second day of class as a new professor at UPenn amid a career change was September 11, 2002.

"It felt wrong for the first anniversary of 9/11 to just be a normal day of class," Michaelson said.

One way he reflected on the anniversary was thinking about it as a "reckoning" for families whose loved ones died either because they arrived to work early on a Tuesday, or because they lost their life saving other people. Michaelson continues to keep the focus on the victims and their stories. In present day he shares conversations with people who lived and worked near site, or were affected in their work by attacks and encourages students to think about who was working that day in the towers.

"That was the beginning of a lesson for them I think that the so-called worthiness of work, what it contributes, isn't always commensurate with what its worth is in the marketplace," he said.

Michaelson hosts a podcast called "Work in Progress" featuring conversations with survivors.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images