National Writing Project

Remembering September 11

By: NWP Staff
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 7, No. 4
Date: September-October 2002

Summary: A year later, teachers discuss the role of writing in the aftermath of the tragedy, and share student projects inspired by the events.


After the September 11 attacks, editors of The Voice began collecting writing from National Writing Project teachers, classrooms, and the extended community as a way to remember those events and reflect on how students and teachers across the nation struggled to come to terms with them. What is striking in the montage of responses in this special "Remembering September 11" section is the powerful sense of purpose that informs every piece, the authenticity of voice, and the sense of community created for the reader. The attacks and subsequent events have brought new relevance to the act of writing in American classrooms. Teachers and students found through their writing a way to summon courage and create meaning and community.

Each of the responses collected here embodies an act of courage, not unlike those commemorated by Dawn Imamoto's California second-graders in their illustrated book, Some People Are Brave. But these commemorations of September 11 also highlight what students can learn from seeing writing as a social act that can have broad impact. So the Florida seventh-grader in teacher Michael Taylor's classroom discovered when she was asked to read her essay for a segment of The Oprah Winfrey Show. And Maryland teacher Rus VanWestervelt launched his statewide Project 9/11 because he "couldn't stand the thought of adults and children . . . never getting the chance to let others know how they experienced this tragedy." His story underscores the value of what NWP site director Sarah Robbins describes in her editorial "Writing to Build Community in a Time of Stress."

September 11 raised complex issues for students and teachers alike. And, as NWP Executive Director Richard Sterling pointed out in his column in the November-December 2001 issue of The Voice, teachers would play an important role in addressing those issues.

Remembering September 11: Articles from The Voice

Giving Children a Voice and Venue After 9/11
Inspired to capture historic moments and reflections that could be lost forever, Rus VanWestervelt of the Maryland Writing Project launched the 9/11 Project, which received over 200 student submissions for inclusion in the book, September Eleven: Maryland Voices.

Some People Are Brave
Before the September 11 attacks, Dawn Imamoto's second-grade class had been working on a unit on bravery, which she then used to help her students create their own publication based on their understanding of bravery in the context of the events of September 11, 2001.

Images from Some People Are Brave
Images from Some People Are Brave, written and illustrated by Dawn Imamoto's second grade students.

Writing to Build Community in a Time of Stress
Sarah Robbins describes the work of the program Keeping and Creating American Communities (KCAC), and the writing assignments that a group of middle and high school teachers developed after September 11.

Student Essay Makes Real-World Connections for Florida Classroom
Middle school teacher Michael Taylor asked his class to write about the events of September 11 and to then send their papers to the local newspaper, an assignment that unexpectedly landed one of his students on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Other NWP Resources

Response to September 11th: Resources for Educators
NWP has compiled a list of resources for educators, students, and caregivers in response to the tragic events of September 11, and created an online form for sharing additional resources and comments.

PDF Download "Remembering September 11"

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