“Where were you on 9/11?” has become the question of my generation. I can proudly answer by saying I was responding to the calls for help as an emergency medical technician in New York City. When my partner and I pulled up to the World Trade Center site, we looked up to see the second plane crash into the South Tower.
But for future generations, the memories of Sept. 11 will primarily be secondhand stories. That’s why the statement “Never Forget” has become central to my career.
In 2007, with the transition of a new teaching career, I entered my first classroom as a special education teacher in a Bronx middle school. I was standing just a few miles from Ground Zero on the 6th anniversary of 9/11 and realized this generation of students didn't really understand what transpired on that day. From that anniversary forward, I have made it my mission to teach about the events of that day, tell my personal story to students, and share information about the four coworkers I lost that day.
In 2011, my personal campaign of “Never Forget” came to life with the opening of the 9/11 Memorial, and later, the opening of the 9/11 Museum in 2014. Students could now experience the multitude of emotions and artifacts firsthand.
Now, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, the 9/11 Memorial Museum has partnered with Google Expeditions to allow students and adults from around the world the opportunity to experience the Museum and its artifacts in an immersive, virtual journey.
The moment I put on the virtual reality viewer, I was in awe. I really felt like I was standing in the 9/11 Memorial Museum. As you navigate the space in virtual reality, nothing gets lost. All the feeling and emotions you would feel standing in the large spaces and exhibitions are translated to scale. As a teacher, I really found the program easy to use. The format outlines discussion questions grouped as beginner, intermediate, and expert. As an educator, I know students will want to look around and may get off task, but the program has a great way of redirecting students with arrows that bring them back to the lesson objective. There are several resources available for teachers on the Museum’s website that help scaffold pre and post lessons and highlight potential cross-content experiences for students.
As a first responder and survivor of 9/11, Google Expeditions has done a wonderful job of bringing the 9/11 Memorial Museum to life, and in doing so has allowed future generations to do what I hope, to “Never Forget.”