September 11, 2001 – The Day of the Attacks 


  • In addition to focusing mostly on the attack by commemorating and memorializing those who perished and risked their lives to save others, it’s important to also include the broader history, context, and perspectives from the day. This includes how different people varying by age, race, religion, and national origin, all made sense of the 9/11 attacks and what they meant throughout the world.

Essential Questions:

  1. How did different people make sense of (understand, respond to, conceptualize) the attacks? 
  2. How did other countries respond to the attacks?
  3. How did different media outlets/mediums cover the events? 
  4. Why do you think different people have such vivid/descriptive yet differing memories of the attacks? 
  5. How does the US choose to memorialize the attacks? 
  6. What are the inherent biases that each of these types of sources (i.e. oral histories, news articles, etc.) have? What can you learn only from this type of source? Which do you find most compelling/convincing and why? 


  1. The attacks (World Trade Center, Pentagon, Flight 93)
    1. Move away from the major US news media, move more broadly
      1. NPR All Things Considered day of: 
        1. Five, hour-long clips from NPR on the day of the 9/11 attacks. Each includes interviews with specialists, civilians, government officials, and commentary from radio hosts. 
        2. EQs: 1, 3, 4, and 6
        1. A lesson plan from the Newseum, which includes a 13-minute video retelling six first-person accounts of journalists covering the 9/11 attacks. The lesson plan also includes a worksheet with comprehension questions about the video, a reference sheet with a timeline of the events of the day, and a list of key terms to understand the event. 
        2. EQs: 1, 3, 4, and 6
      3. TV news day of: 
        1. An archive of 426 news clips from 9/11, mostly from national US media outlets, with some from the BBC as well. Clips are from throughout the day of the attacks. 
        2. EQs: 2, 3, and 6
    2. Headlines of the day after from around the world 
        1. A collection of 49 newspaper front pages from around the world on September 12, 2001. News ranges from state and local papers to international and foreign language press. 
        2. EQs: 2, 3, and 6
    3. Personal experience and reflection
      1. Library of Congress/ The September 11 Digital Archive: 
        1. This database includes over 150,000 artifacts on the 9/11 attacks, including emails, personal stories, and digital images. Collections are curated into the following themes – anniversary collections, art, audio, digital media projects, first responders, the Library of Congress collections, online user contributions, organizations, personal accounts, photography, Collections from the Smithsonian, and videos. 
        2. EQs: 1, 4, 5, and 6
      2. The Library of Congress – September 11, 2001, Documentary Project: 
        1. This collection includes audio clips, images, written narratives, videos, and other primary source material that tell the story of the attacks of 9/11 from the perspective of everyday humans. At the bottom of the webpage is a “finding tool” to help teachers filter their selections to find what works best for their classroom. Below are a couple of suggested interviews from the collection: 
          1. a 4-minute interview with Nathan West from Madison, WI. The interview shows how non-New Yorkers grapple with the events and why they think they happened. 
          2. 25 minutes interview with Nanette Papiernik, who reflects on driving 4-5-year-olds to school, and gives an adult perspective of how children understood the 9/11 attacks. 
          3. Interview with Nilson Rosado, who worked near the World Trade Center, and remembers the day of the attack, and his attempts to help his fellow New Yorkers. This interview is in Spanish and is 8 minutes long. 
        2. EQs: 1, 4, 5, and 6
    4. The perspective of New Yorkers
        1. A one-hour-long radio show episode of NPR’s “This American Life,” is broken up into six parts. Stories include survivor accounts, New Yorker reactions, and protests on what it means to be American. 
        2. EQs: 1, 4, 5, and 6
        1. 10 oral histories of people connected to the 9/11 attacks, ranging from first responders to survivors, to family members. Each oral history also includes a transcript of the text. 
        2. EQs: 1, 4, 5, and 6
    5. Documentaries
      1. Widows who found Bush complicit: 
        1. A documentary about the events of 9/11, made in 2006. The film focuses on what the US knew prior to the events, what happened the day of the attack, and the role that Pakistan played leading up to and after the events. (Note: This link is to the Library of Congress pages about this documentary, not a link to the actual movie.)
        2. EQs: 4 and 6
      2. Man in the Red Bandana 
        2. A documentary made in 2017 about one man, Welles Remy Crowther, who worked in the Towers, and died helping many people escape the attack. The film looks at his impact on the lives of the people he saved. (Note: This link is to the film’s webpage. The movie is available through iTunes and Amazon for rent or buy.)
        3. EQs: 1, 4, 5, and 6
      3. 9/11 (Nanuet Brothers documentary)
        2. A documentary, released in 2002, started as a documentary to tell the story of a probationary firefighter in New York but captures the story of first responders on the day of the 9/11 attacks. 
        3. This link is for the IMDB page with film information, not a link to the movie itself. 
        4. EQs: 1, 4, 5, and 6
      4. Boatlife (Tom Hanks) 
        2. An 11-minute short documentary from 2011 that recounts the maritime evacuation of lower Manhattan on 9/11. The U.S. Coast Guard put out a call for all boats available to come to assist in the evacuation, and hundreds of civilians answered the call. 
        3. EQs: 1, 4, 5, and 6
    6. Storycorps
        1. Storycorps is a collection of interviews done informally of people by other people they know. This collection is focused on the 9/11 attacks and their impact on everyday people. Stories include parents who lost children, spouses who lost their partners, first responders and their families, and more. Many of the oral histories have short descriptions, a transcript of the text, and some have been animated, including the list below:
            • An NYC firefighter, John Sr. reflects on coping with the loss of his two sons, a firefighter and detective, who both lost their lives rescuing people in the World Trade Centers.
            • On the morning of September 11th, Michael Trinidad called his ex-wife, Monique Ferrer, from the World Trade Center to say goodbye. Monique tells the story of Michael’s legacy and their family.
            • When Richie Pecorella met Karen Juday, she captured his heart and changed his life. Here, Richie remembers Karen, his love and inspiration, who was killed on September 11th.
        2. EQs: 1, 4, 5, and 6
    7. Image of Bush reading to the kids, finding out (video)
        1. A 5 minutes clip from 2016 of the presidential advisor who told President Bush of the attacks on 9/11. 
        2. EQs: 1 and 6
        1. A 4-minute clip from 2011 of the students who President Bush was reading to on 9/11, reflecting on their experience on that day. 
        2. EQs: 1 and 6
    8. United 93/Shanksville memorial 
      2. The National Parks Service Website for the United 93 memorial site. The website includes resources, ways to interact in a distanced learning environment, and webcams and virtual tours of the site. 
      3. EQs: 5 and 6 
    9. CIA response: 
      1. The remarks that George Tenet (Director of Central Intelligence) gave to the CIA workforce on 9/12/2001. 
      2. EQs: 1 and 6
  1. Comparison to Pearl Harbor attack 

Types of Sources:

  • Interview
  • Speech
  • Physical Memorial Site
  • News Article
  • Presidential media clip
  • Personal Stories/Oral Histories
  • Radio News
  • TV News