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9/11: From Front Page to Oral Histories

Created by:
James Daniels
Hamilton Township

Ericka Pitman
William Davies Middle School

9/11 and its Aftermath

Grade Level:
6 to 8


In this lesson, students will become familiar with the series of events occurring in New York City on September 11, 2001. Using various Internet websites, students will review photos, newspapers, and oral histories documenting the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City. Students will create a front page of a newspaper to show their understanding of the event. As a follow-up activity, students will either interview an adult who was alive during the event to examine the impact it had on the individual personally, or create a poster similar to the "I am American" campaign that explains the student's understanding of how the event affected various ethnic groups.

Historical Context

The September 11, 2001 attacks were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda upon the United States. That morning nineteen Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial jet airliners. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. This killed everyone on board and many of the people working in the buildings or responding to the attacks. Both buildings collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings while damaging others. A third airliner was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. A fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after the passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane. It is assumed the hijackers expected to crash this airliner into the White House in Washington D.C.

After 9/11, heightened security fears led many Americans to discriminate against those from Middle-Eastern backgrounds. Thus, Muslim-Americans faced obstacles to and changes in their normal lives at school, work, and in their communities.

September 11, 2001, newspapers, oral history, and racial profiling

Goals and Objectives:

After completing this activity students will:

1. Understand the historical events of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, PA.

2. Understand the affect the 9/11 attacks had on the Muslim-American community, and be aware of subsequent attempts by Muslim-Americans to improve their public image in the United States.


STANDARD 6.1.12.D.15.C (U.S. History: America in the World (1970-Today)): Explain how and why religious tensions and historic differences in the Middle East have led to international conflicts, and analyze the effectiveness of United States' policy and actions in bringing peaceful resolutions to the region.

STANDARD 6.1.12.D.15.D (U.S. History: America in the World (1970-Today)): Analyze the reasons for terrorism and the impact that terrorism has had on individuals and government policies, and assess the effectiveness of actions taken by the United States and other nations to prevent terrorism.

Equipment, materials and other technology needed:

Computers with Internet access

Digital Camera (optional)

Appendix A: Salmaan Jaffery,interviewed by Gerry Albarelli, New York, NY, 12/3/01 (Oral History), September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project, Columbia University Oral History Collection, New York (12 pp).

Appendix B: Zaheer Jaffery, interviewed by Gerry Albarelli, Jamaica, New York, 11/16/01 (Oral History), September 11th Project (10 pp).

Appendix C: I am Muslim American, printed public service announcements created by the Council on American-Islamic Relations(CAIR), 2002, available in Evelyn Alsultany, "Selling American Diversity and Muslim American Identity through Nonprofit Advertising Post-9/11," American Quarterly, 59, no. 3 (Sept. 2007): 593-622.

Appendix D: Directions for Oral History Project

Details of Activity


Warm-up Activity (20 minutes)

Begin with an overview of this lesson explaining that students will use multiple sources to learn about what happened in New York City on 9/11. Show the 9-minute You Tube video, "September 11, 2001 - As It Happened - The South Tower Attack" (Web Link 1). Follow-up with a brief classroom discussion reviewing the time line of events.

PART I (25 minutes)

Introduce the Newseum website "9/11 Terrorist Attacks," which includes front pages of 50 newspapers from the United States and around the world from that day (go to Web Link 2 and scroll down until you find "9/11 Terrorist Attacks, Sept 12, 2001." Click there). Review one front page to show students what information goes into a newspaper article and how the front page of a newspaper looks. Explain to the students that their homework assignment is to create their own front page documenting the New York September 11, 2001 attack. The remainder of the period will be set aside for students to explore the 50 front pages to gather information and ideas.

DAY TWO (Optional):

Warm-up Activity (15 minutes)

Let one or two students present their front page posters and have a class discussion about the historical accuracy of each.

PART I (30 minutes)

Describe the concept of racial profiling to the students and explain its affect on the Muslim-American community in the United States after September 11, 2001. Have the class read the oral history of either Salmaan Jaffery or Zaheer Jaffery (Appendices A&B). Follow-up with a class discussion about how 9/11 affected each man's life.

DAY THREE: (Optional)

Warm-up Activity (10 minutes)

Present the Advertising Council's "I am an American" campaign by watching the 60-second and 30-second public service announcements (Web Link 3). Follow-up with a discussion about what it is to be American. Be sure to draw on demographics in the class to demonstrate the concept.

PART I (20 minutes)

Using the PDF of the CAIR posters (Appendix C) divide the class into groups and have each read and discuss the contents and intent of their poster. Follow-up with a class discussion of each poster in terms of its central objective and message.

Practice and Reinforcement

Present to the class a choice of projects. The students may conduct an oral history interview of an adult who was at least 25 years of age on September 11, 2001 and ask them to describe how 9/11 affected them (For student directions and related handouts see Appendix D). Alternatively, they might create a poster based on the "I am an American" and CAIR campaigns drawing on the experiences of minorities in the U.S.


Web Links:
As It Happened: South Tower Attack, 8:54 min.

Newseum September 11, 2001 Front Pages

"I am an American," PSA, Ad Council, 2001-present

Supplementary Materials




For more information about the Teaching American History Program click here