Teaching youth about a turning point in American history.
For the fourth consecutive year, I.S. 259 William McKinley, 7301 Fort Hamilton Parkway, hosted a day to educate students about the terrorist attacks that occurred in New York City on September 11, 2001.
The event, held this year on Wednesday, September 12, featured guest Sharyn Yansko, a 9/11 Memorial Museum docent, to discuss 9/11 with the help of slideshows that featured images and video of the World Trade Center.
“This is my second year doing this. I’ve been working at the museum ever since it opened as a docent,” said Yansko. “It’s very meaningful to me, bringing it to kids. It was really enjoyable last year because the kids were interested.It reinforces for me how incredibly important it is to study history and how you’ve got to get people excited about the idea of studying it so that they realize it’s not just stuff that happened before. It changes us.”
Jessica Amato, an English teacher at the school and organizer of the event, discussed the importance of the lesson.
“This is the fourth year that the museum has come to us free of charge to share this message that even in the grimmest of moments, there’s a shred of hope that we have,” she said. “My students take a lot out of it. They walk away with a better understanding of what happens historically and the idea that even in this tragic event, there are some hopeful moments.
“Last week I did an overview and asked who knew about the events,” Amato continued. “None of them was born before 9/11. This is a whole new set of students who have a different grasp of what happened. It’s good to give them information in a way that is appropriate and manageable.”
Following the lesson, student Mostafa Rezk took the seventh grade class on a tour of the school’s elaborate mural depicting the events on the day and featuring paintings of firefighters, police, victims and artifacts donated to the school, such as an American flag flown over the World Trade Center, and steel, glass and a cross found at Ground Zero.
During the conference, Yansko told the story of Welles Crowther, a man who worked in the south tower on the 104th floor and who used a red bandanna his father gave him at a young age to cover his face from the smoke in the building, enabling him to save several lives before he died.
“That his mother was able to find a kind of closure, thanks to the fact that her son helped save people in his last moments, was important,” Amato said. “I think it’s a really great message because a lot of times the students hear a lot of negativity. We need to know that there as moments in our lives, especially as middle school students, that things can be negative but there is always a glimmer of hope that we can hold onto so that we can move forward.”