I had phenomenal history teachers when I was in middle school and high school. All of them were dedicated, passionate people who truly made each moment of history come alive for their students. And while English was certainly my favorite subject, history was a very close second.
Once I was in college, I realized that it wouldn't be that much more work to turn my history minor into another major, so I did. It was one of the smartest decisions I ever made and I am glad that I have that degree as well. My history background has helped me understand literature better. It has helped me understand the world in a way that I hadn't before. Yes, it was a great decision.
I am reminded again today of how glad I am that I can teach history. After the events of last night, I knew that today I would be able to have an important conversation with my history students. On Friday, one of my students asked me, "Why do we study history?"
I gave him my normal answer-that history teaches us where we have been. Knowing where we came from, and the events that have brought us to this moment, explains why things are the way they are. We learn history to know our past, our mistakes, and the things that have shaped the world around us. It teaches us to think critically and question decisions our leaders make. Most importantly, it teaches us to be grateful for what we have and who we are as people.
He didn't like that answer. He said, "I like you and your class, but history doesn't matter."
The events of the last 24 hours have proven him wrong. And I made sure that I got through to him.
Both of my history classes watched Obama's speech from last night. Many of them hadn't seen it, so they were enthralled. When it was over, we talked about Obama's phrasing, the way he broke the news to the nation. We talked about the fact that he said, "One nation, under God" and what that meant.
But mostly we talked about this moment in U.S. History. I showed them the images of the people cheering and gathering outside the White House and Ground Zero. We talked about what the death of Osama bin Laden truly meant to our nation as whole, and why people were cheering that a man had died, instead of remembering the people we lost on September 11.
They asked if I remembered where I was on September 11, as most of my students were only 5 or 6. They couldn't remember seeing footage of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, of the anxiety of the nation. I told them I was a junior in high school at the time, and my computer teacher had turned on CNN to check his stocks. CNN was showing footage of the first tower, with smoke billowing from its top. We all stopped and listened as the anchors explained that a plane had somehow crashed into the tower when a second plane came from nowhere and hit the second tower.
I told them that there are moments in everyone's lifetime that you remember vividly. For me, one of those moments include September 11. That day is forever etched in my mind. That is why yesterday is so significant, why it changed history. While hate and anger may not be over, this is a step in the right direction. It is the end of an era. It is the end of questioning where that man is hiding, and when are we going to find him.
I wanted them all to know that we should be grateful for what we have and where our history has brought us. While many across the globe hate us for our freedom and diplomacy, we are who we are for a reason. The decisions that our government has made in the past brought us to this moment. We should not be cheering that a man is dead, but that our beliefs have held true. We should be cheering in remembrance of the people we lost that date, and knowing that as Obama said last night, "Justice has been done."
Yes, I am glad I made that decision in college, and I'm glad I was able to share my love of history with my students today.
History is very much alive, whether we want to see it or not.