It’s 9/11. So What?

The Challenger explosion. John F. Kennedy’s death. Pearl Harbor. As far back into time as we can reach, we can find nation-rocking events. Events about which people can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.

And, if you’ve paid attention to today’s date, then you know where I’m leading you. The most recent [tragic] event that fits into this “know exactly where you were when it happened” category for U.S. Americans is the day the World Trade Center was attacked. September 11, 2001.

Where were you? What were you doing?

I was a senior in high school. I was in my first-period class, which happened to be American Government. My teacher had the news on when we walked into class. The first plane had already struck. The bell rang at 8:00 a.m. (CDT), and by that time all eyes in our class of 20-some students were glued to the TV. And so it was that a collective gasp went up at 8:03, when we all witnessed the second crash live.

2001. That was twelve years ago. Your youngest students may not have even been born yet. Your oldest students may not have started Kindergarten. So what do we do with that?

Depending on how long you’ve been in youth ministry, the Challenger explosion and JFK’s death might not hold a personal significance for you, and I’m betting Pearl Harbor really doesn’t, unless you’re a true youth ministry veteran. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t been taught about them. It doesn’t mean you haven’t learned to understand the important places those events occupy in history.

But who taught you that significance? And when did you really begin to grasp it? My guess would be, not during your teenage years. Teenagers are, by nature, self-centered. It’s part of the growing-up process.

So how do you handle 9/11 discussions with your teenagers? How do you help them understand the significance of events that happened before there were smartphones? Before Twitter? Before the existence of everything that their worlds revolve around, namely themselves?