Understanding tragedy: Morgantown students look back at 9-11-2001

Published 12:13 am Thursday, September 8, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Dearrious Ishman, 11, left, and Jacob Reese, 10, watch a documentary about 9-11 with their class Wednesday afternoon at Morgantown Elementary.

NATCHEZ — With arms folded and chins hovering atop stacks of books on their desks, approximately 40 children watched a second plane enter the right side of their classroom’s Promethean board screen and disappear into the south Twin Tower of the World Trade Center.

Some of the fifth graders in Shalanda White and Sandra Trimble’s classes at Morgantown Elementary School saw the footage from the Sept. 11 attacks for the first time Wednesday.

The 10- and 11-year olds were born the year of the historic attacks, but most of the students remember being told about that day.

“My mom said she was at work when it happened,” 11-year-old Brandon Butler said.

Ashton Hughes, 10, left, and Alexis Jones, 10, react after watching a documentary.

Butler was a year and few days old when Al-Qaeda hijackers attacked America.

McLaurin Elementary School student Devin Brown said he learned about the Sept. 11 attacks when his older brother showed him clips of footage from that day on Youtube.com.

“One of the planes went into big smoke and (the plane’s) wings disappeared,” Brown said, remembering the clip.

Brown, a fourth grader, will turn 9 Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

“My grandma told me there were a lot of people in there, and (some were) jumping out of windows,” said 11-year-old MaKaila Broadus.

Broadus, who was almost a year old during the attacks, said she felt sad when picturing the children who were hurt or killed that attended daycare at the World Trade Center.

White said she felt it was important to let her students know about the historic event that occurred the year many of her students were born to give them perspective about the turmoil the county is currently facing.

She has other reasons for exposing them to the footage, White said.

“(It’s to teach them) how life can change in a minute,” she said.

White said she wavered from her classroom agenda Wednesday and welcomed Trimble’s class to her classroom to show the students the PBS footage when the subject of 9-11 came up in discussion.

“I was in shock at their reactions, and to see how many of them have never seen it up close,” White said.

“Some of my little girls were almost in tears.”

White said she knows some students have been exposed to the historic attacks of New York City, Washington, D.C., and near Shanksville, Pa., but it was important for her to keep the history fresh the minds of her students, many who were babies that day.

White remembered her personal experience.

“I was in graduate school on the phone with (friend) Kisha White. My grandmother called me and told me to put (the TV) on channel 20,” White said.

White said she thought the crash into the first building was an accident until she saw the second plane hit the south tower on TV.

“I was in shock and awe,” she said.

Damira McGruder, 10, was a toddler when the attacks happened.

She said she learned more about the attacks on a family trip to New York City a few years ago.

McGruder said she passed Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan while souvenir shopping, and her mother purchased her a book near the site that told the story of Sept. 11 attacks.

McGruder said it is hard to believe the Sept. 11 attacks happened years ago, just because someone didn’t like the United States.

Teachers confirmed that, “Why?” was the most common question they hear from students when discussing the attacks.

“If I didn’t like someone, I would’ve kept it to myself,” McGruder said.

But McGruder said the attacks taught her a valuable lesson.

“No one could’ve predicted that could happen,” McGruder said. “Only God knows what’s going to happen.