A Modern Perspective on 9/11

Discovery Education's new 9/11 Virtual Field Trip, featuring Stuyvesant students Tamzid Tapan (senior) and Satvik Agnihotri (junior), allows students to gain a better insight into the September attacks and their aftermath.

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This coming year, no Stuyvesant student will have been alive for the events of 9/11. Though our school community was shaped so deeply by the event, a personal connection to it is difficult for many students. In collaboration with New York City high school students, Discovery Education created a 9/11 Day of Service Virtual Field Trip for young people to learn more about the nation-shaking attacks.

The tribute video, which can be viewed on the Discovery Education website, opens with images of the aftermath of 9/11, from the towers’ destruction to organized community efforts. Filmed in the 9/11 Tribute Museum, senior Tamzid Tapan and junior Satvik Agnihotri joined a panel with four other speakers.

The two students spoke of their impression of 9/11, which—in the absence of personal experience—had been shaped largely through secondhand accounts of the day and the subsequent responses. Tapan described how a family member had narrowly avoided being in the World Trade Center when the first plane hit, while Agnihotri expressed that he, and others who were not alive during the attacks, can sometimes struggle to realize the significance of the event. “We’re sort of aware of it in the background [...] When you hear about [9/11] it’s [just] ‘two planes hit these towers at some point in time,’” Agnihotri said, mentioning that understanding the emotions and implications of the event is difficult for many young people. “It's made out to be this enormous thing, but we never understood the gravity of it because we weren't there.”

The tribute provides younger viewers with a new perspective on 9/11. “It’s one thing to read about it in a book or watch a two-minute video in elementary school. It’s another to see people [whose lives were changed by 9/11],” Agnihotri said.

Despite this disconnect, the consequences of 9/11 impact various communities today. Tapan notes that while he was not directly affected, the widespread Islamophobia following 9/11 is still present today. “Being a Muslim-American, I still suffer the effects of 9/11,” Tapan said. “I wasn’t directly harmed, but I still get weird looks [...] For example, where I work, sometimes people tell their kids not to [interact with] me because I’m brown.”

After sharing their personal perspectives on 9/11, Tapan and Agnihotri posed questions to adult panelists that had experienced the attacks. Among the panelists were NYPD Chief Terri Tobin (who received the NYPD medal of valor and congressional recognition for her service on 9/11), Hillary O’Neill (a student at Villanova University who was born on 9/11), and Jay Winuk (one of the founders of the 9/11 Day of Service initiative). The video ultimately hopes to convey that regardless of when you were born, how much or how little of a connection you have to 9/11, you can and should take part in service and give back to your community in remembrance of the unity demonstrated following the attacks. “Turning something bad into something good, I’d hope everyone sees that as something positive to bring to the world,” Agnihotri said.

While most students see and learn about 9/11 as a negative event, the tribute showcases the positives that came from it. “When we hear about 9/11, we think about the towers and the countless lives lost, but it really showed me that despite all that happened that day, every day after that has resulted in more good,” Tapan said.