Educators Shielded Students from Tragedy

Kevin Haugen

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, David Hartwig and his fellow 8th grade classmates walked into homeroom not expecting anything out of the ordinary. It was not until one of his teachers turned on the classroom television to display the tragedy that struck the nation on that fateful day.

“I remember sitting there watching it on T.V., and I remember the images of the towers falling down,” said Hartwig, a UW-Milwaukee student who has a degree in physics and is currently working on his second in engineering. “At that age it is tough to grasp the significance of it. Some teachers and classes I was in did not want anyone to watch what was going on.”

As the day continued the confusion spread among Hartwig’s friends, “I recall when we had recess and went outside to the playground a lot of students were talking about that this was the beginning of Armageddon.”

For most students who are in college now, Sept. 11 has significant meaning in name but not in memory. Although most remember images of the towers falling, it is becoming harder to remember everything that happened that day. The motto the United Sates citizens have donned to honor those who had lost their lives is “We Will Not Forget.”

But as each year passes students are getting younger and younger in which that day will no longer be one that they can remember as an experience but as one they learn from their school teachers.

As young students watched the events unfold that day, it forced them into situations they were not use to.

“I was young at the time and it was hard to understand why somebody would want to do this,” said Hartwig. Why would they want to kill people?”

Hartwig is 25-years-old now, but at the time of 9/11 he was 13-years-old, a young age to deal with morality issues and having to watch death happen in front of his eyes. But despite recalling some unforgettable moments and emotions from that day, Hartwig could not recollect everything that happened.

“It was long ago. At the time it all did not really connect with me, and I felt detached from it.”

This was a common recollection.

“I do not really remember much from that day,” says Nicole Cornejo who is first-year transfer student to UW-Milwaukee and is working on a degree in education. “It is hard to remember everything that happened. It was so long ago.”

Unlike Hartwig, Cornejo did not watch the events that day on a television set. Instead her 4th grade teacher at Edgerton Middle School relayed the news. “I do remember during one of my classes that day how badly my teacher, Miss Schroeder, was acting out.”

Most educators did not want their young students subjected to the horror of the visual sites of the World Trade Center building engulfed in smoke. Instead they wanted to shield them from it.

This may have played a factor in most students who are now entering college or will soon be college students not being able to think back to 9/11 as a moment in their life but as a moment in history. For some students, they will remember the day as one where they were introduced to the evils of this world.

“One of the things that does stand out to me most from that day, is that it was the first time I heard about Osama Bin Laden,” Hartwig says.