Black Tuesday and the stock market crash in the 1920’s. The Great Depression in the 1930’s. World War II in the 1940’s. Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s. President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in the 1960’s. The Watergate scandal and Nixon’s near impeachment in the 1970’s. The Challenger Explosion in the 1980’s. The Columbine shooting in the 1990’s. The terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in the 2000’s. Every decade has its major events. I’ve learned about these events over and over in history class, but it’s nothing like the stories I hear from my family. My great-grandmother’s stories of how there wasn’t enough chicken feed during the Great Depression. My grandmother’s fear and shock at the news of Kennedy’s assassination. These are the stories that I remember when I think of these events. It’s the stories my family tells that I remember. It is the personal stories that make learning history enjoyable.
The terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers is an event that I remember clearly and can tell the story of in the future. The attacks came on a Tuesday when I was in fourth grade. It was a sweltering day, and we had just come in from recess when our teacher read us an email stating that all after-school sports and activities were cancelled. “Why?” was the big question. It was not raining outside, so unless there was a tornado watch, there was no weather issue. It was unusual, but as elementary students, we just shrugged it off and got on with our school work. I had heard the email, but didn’t figure that it would include the Girl Scout meeting that afternoon, just like any other Tuesday. It wasn’t until my Girl Scout leader went around telling all the girls to go home after-school, that Girl Scouts was cancelled, that I really began to worry. What could be so big that everything was cancelled? And why weren’t they telling us what happened? When I got home, my mom told my younger sister and I that there were planes that flew into two big, important buildings in New York. Being only nine, I really didn’t understand why it was so important. Still, it was a shock to see the images on t.v. It didn’t take long, though, and my worries were gone. I wasn’t old enough to understand how terrible the attack was. I was just bummed that I couldn’t watch my favorite t.v. shows after school. Now that I am older and understand the importance of the World Trade Center, I can fully comprehend the horrific events of that fateful day. While textbooks can tell students what happened, it is nothing compared to the memories I have and the way I feel. Only I can pass on the story of how such a major event impacted my life.
When stories are passed through the generations, I learn lessons about my family. Conversations with the older members of my family about what happened to them in history breaks down the wall between our generations. These conversations show that despite all the changes in the world and in our society, so much is still the same. I really am not that much different than my ancestors. Through their stories, I am able to relate to them more easily.
I believe that it is up to each and every one of us to take our history and the history of those who came before us, and pass it on to the future generations. History can be kept alive.
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