Next year, September 11, 2021, will mark the 20-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the 2,977 people who lost their lives on that day and on the days following. As time passes, the pain and fear of those days have dulled, and many young adults have no knowledge of the attacks outside of their history textbooks and the stories their parents have shared. Today we face new fears and tragedies that the whole world shares in. How can we possibly approach teaching tragedies and equipping our children to handle them? How can we even truly express the tragedy and horror of what happened on September 11, 2001?
Your heritage studies materials will be helpful in covering and introducing the events, and even helping your children to develop biblical perspectives on tragic events. If you would like to go deeper in discussions about tragedies, here are some themes that you can use to guide your children’s thinking and your discussion.
In the midst of a national or worldwide tragedy, people will be hurting. People will be afraid. And many will be angry. It’s even harder to accept what is happening when we don’t know all the facts that led to the tragedy or who is responsible. For most people, it’s often easier to just react to the things that are happening, but we don’t always know what other events our reactions may lead to. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors. In order to love appropriately, we need to be patient and honest with others and with ourselves. Patient in dealing with those who are afraid and need assurance, and honest about what’s happening so those who are hurting or angry can respond and grieve appropriately.
God Is in Control.
During a tragedy, the thing that drives fear most is the uncertainty. What will happen next? After 9/11, our fears were centered on war. What kind of retaliation would occur? How many more lives would be lost? How would we rebuild and recover? Job must have felt much of the same fear and uncertainty after losing everything. But no matter the circumstances we face today, tomorrow, or 20 years from now, those who have put their faith in Christ can always take comfort in knowing that God is in control. Nothing that will happen or can happen is against His plan (Isaiah 14:24).
God Brings Good out of the Evil That People Do.
Because God is always in control, we can rest assured that any tragedy will glorify Him, even if we can’t see how in our lifetime. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). The events of 9/11 helped many lost and broken souls to realize their desperate need for salvation. One pilot’s testimony also brings us a beautiful picture of the sacrifice and redemption in Christ’s death on the cross. In addition to the souls brought to Him, the loss and tragedy of those days also brought the people of the United States closer to each other for a time, and countless other nations showed Americans support and compassion in a time of overwhelming grief and fear.
These Are Times to Pray.
We should, of course, be teaching our children that they should “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) but times of tragedy are special times to lift up others in prayer. Not just the families of those who have lost their lives or are suffering, but for many others as well. For leaders to make good and wise decisions. For first responders who risk their lives for the safety of others. And for military personnel, who may be called in for additional support, to give an appropriate response.
Resources for Teaching about 9/11
- Heritage Studies 5 teacher edition, chapter 19
- Reading 5, student text, “Let’s Roll”
- Lesson Plans from 9/11 Memorial
- StoryCorps library of 9/11 stories—please preview stories before sharing.