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Inside the classroom on September 11

Published: Sep. 11, 2021 at 8:42 PM CDT
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CHIPPEWA VALLEY, Wis. (WEAU) - On September 11, 2001, teachers were preparing for a day like any other, arriving to school without knowing the hysteria that would follow.

They were like the rest of America, confused, and trying to make sense of a tragic event.

Gregg Jochimsen, a Chippewa Falls Middle School teacher, was huddled in the teacher’s lounge, watching in awe as one plane crash turned into two and the idea of an accident proved to be more of an attack.

“I would say it was one of the more difficult days of teaching possible,” he said. “I can remember exactly who I was standing next to as the second plane came in and crashed into the towers.”

Northstar Middle School Teacher Andrew Holle explains students were almost kept inside a bubble, unaware of the tragedy occurring across the country.

“I kept the email from our administration from that day basically asking us not to speak about it for the remainder of that day as the events were unfolding because we just didn’t know what was happening and of course everyone was in shock,” said Holle.

“They didn’t have access to the news. They didn’t have access to the information like they do today,” Amy Erickson, eighth grade English Arts teacher at Chippewa Falls Middle School, said.

Teachers were tasked with the challenge of remaining composed in front of a classroom.

Erickson says as the hours ticked by and more information surfaced, worry turned into fear.

“All of the teachers were on edge and I know that there were probably some students that picked up on that, but didn’t know what had happened,” said Erickson.

She remembers the somber atmosphere in the building.

“I remember crying and breaking down, but it wasn’t until I got home,” Erickson reflected.

Jochimsen was teaching eighth grade history in 2001. Instead of covering the events like Pearl Harbor or the Vietnam War, he was experiencing history first hand.

“I’m worrying about my own children at home, not knowing what was happening, trying to stick with the events, not knowing what’s going on in each class,” said Jochimsen. “Parents were concerned. They were calling to have their kids picked up and there was a murmur in the building, you knew something was going on.”

“The next day really got tough too because everyone had the information, I would say our class period was used talking about that,” Jochimsen added.

“Our general nature was to reassure. Reassure safety and to provide context,” Holle said.

20 years later, the lessons continue for students who weren’t alive during the terrorist attack.

“The goal as an educator is to make sure that students continue to know what happened,” Jochimsen explained.

Teachers like Holle, Erickson and Jochimsen are choosing to use 9/11 and its aftermath as something to learn from-- finding silver linings to continue to pass on to today’s youth.

“[After 9/11there was a sense of] unity-- in our country’s name is United. It was a clear thing that happened everywhere. No one was talking about political parties or anything. Honestly, the flag waving, that took an upticking. That patriotic, that “let’s come together,” Holle said.

They hope by coming together to honor our past, learn from tragedy that history doesn’t repeat itself.

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