“It changed everybody.” A Bullis parent remembering 9/11
A recent project brought Bullis students a new perspective on the impact and aftermath of the 9/11/01 attacks. To honor the anniversary of the event, students in Social Studies Teacher Matt Smith’s 10th grade Global Studies class and Upper School students in his U.S. Government class interviewed family members and others who remember that day. Each student was asked to conduct an interview with someone willing to share their memories of that day and that time in history. Students used Flipgrid to record the interviews. Matt Smith then compiled the recordings into a video that is moving, authentic, and powerful.
“I wanted to give the students a perspective on the terrorist attacks of 9/11,” Smith said. “We no longer have students at Bullis who were even alive on that day. Talking to people who were actually there, or who remember what happened and what it felt like to be there gave the students a lot to think about.” Smith talked with his students about ways to conduct the interview, and let them take the lead on creating a list of questions for their interviewees.
“Students discovered that people they knew had lost coworkers, friends, even family members, and that everyone felt changed. It’s important for kids to know about this day and to recognize its impact in history.”Social Studies Teacher, Matt Smith
As a new Bullis faculty member, Matt Smith remarked on the encouragement he has received here, which was part of his decision to join our faculty this year. Since his arrival this summer, he has learned “that atmosphere of sharing and generosity among the faculty and the community is very genuine. It’s real at Bullis.”
In discussing the project with Bullis colleagues, Smith looked for ways to take the project beyond the assignment itself to give students—and others—a broader picture to appreciate, something to take away for themselves. To do so, he relied on three years’ experience doing film and video work for ESPN, where he learned a great deal about putting together an effective, high-quality video, and it shows: the 9/11 video is moving and meaningful. “It’s all about the music,” Smith said of merging the short film with a quiet piano track. “It helps bring out the substance and emotional meaning in what’s being said.” What was the toughest part of the project for him? “Deciding what to use in the final video. There were incredible memories shared, and not everyone opted to be on camera.”
In the video, interviewees shared recollections of feeling shock, horror, and loss that day, and then the realization of ways that they—and the world around them—seemed to change. “It’s important to remember the kindness and solidarity of that day,” says one interview subject.” Another says, “And there was a feeling of unity, something positive to take away.” “Courage,” recalls another. “Acts of courage.”
“What we framed for this project, was a way to help students realize the importance of the individual story in history, which should never be discredited in later accounts of an event. We never want to lose sight of memories as a resource, particularly today in a digital age with so much information. An individual’s perspective is hugely important in helping us understand events and history. Someone’s personal story about 9/11 is just as relevant as digital information about that day. I want my students to appreciate that.” Social Studies Teacher, Matt Smith