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World Trade Center Families

World Trade Center Families

In the fall of 2004 the Institute began a collaboration with the World Trade Center United Families Group to do curriculum development based on the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The effort has two parts. Curriculum is being developed for the general high school audience and a special curriculum is being created for students who lost loved ones in the attacks. The general curriculum draws students through the dramatic stories of human suffering, sacrifice, heroism, and fanaticism, and then challenges them to understand the larger political, social, and economic forces that shaped these events and have in turn been influenced by them.

The special curriculum seeks to address the special issues faced by surviving children including feelings of helplessness in the face of larger forces and of confusion and frustration at the apparently senseless nature of the attacks. Our program seeks to address these issues by providing participants with a chance to begin to understand the possibilities of their own power and the underlying causes of 911. Obviously, no one experience will deliver a neat and final resolution, but each experience can provide another element that helps the individual to replace helplessness with confidence and disillusioned cynicism with knowledge and civic skills.

Put in slightly different terms, our program will offer participants the opportunity and the tools to transmute their feelings of victimhood into feelings of empowerment. By teaching participants both the theory and the practicalities of American democracy, we can provide them with the resources to develop a sense of political efficacy. When people feel their own power and take advantage of their citizenship, they create their own personal antidotes to feelings of powerlessness and persecution. The special program was launched in the summer of 2005 with a pilot program in the form of a trip to Washington for high school students who lost a loved one on September 11, 2001.

The general program, supported by a generous grant from the Ace-Ina Foundation is currently completing a first phase consisting of approximately 60 in depth oral history interviews with survivors, family members, rescuers, and witnesses (including such prominent politicians as Senator Hillary Clinton and Representative Peter King). Work has begin on the development of lesson plans and units based on this very rich set of recollections, and a pilot project will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Washington, DC in January 2008.A full curriculum will be available for the fall of 2009.

"Making Democracy Work"