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OJH Students Write Family Memoir to Commemorate 9/11

As America recognizes the 20th anniversary of the tragic events on Sept. 11, 2001, eighth graders at Ozark Junior High are studying this day through a new lens. Students are writing a memoir of that time by interviewing someone in their family circle to see how the day impacted them personally. 

“The project really has two purposes,” English teacher Dana Poepsel said. “First, it’s a great way to help young people learn to communicate. They write questions, ask them of an adult, listen, and then ask follow-up questions. It’s a practice in the art of conversation.” 

But as students also study the events through websites, articles and videos, they are learning more than just the facts of the day. 

“The second purpose was to allow students an opportunity to learn their own family history and story,” said Poepsel. “For many of us, these events seem like just a few years back and it’s difficult to realize just how much time has passed. Many of the students are finding their parents were still in school at that time so their stories tell the tale of what students on that day learned and how they felt.” 

Students are interviewing parents, other family members or family friends. Among them, they are writing stories of teachers and firefighters, relatives in New York, the military, or travelers on that day. There are also personal stories of loss. 

Eighth grade social studies teacher Josh Lollis said students show an interest in the events of Sept. 11 each year.

“As we move further and further away from the events of 9/11 we see how students have more questions about it because it’s not as familiar to them," he said. "‘How could this have happened? What was the world like then? What was America like after that day?’ It gives them an opportunity to explore history that is more current and relevant to their lives.” 

While 20 years may have passed, it’s obvious eighth grade students are still curious. Instructional coach Melisa Dodd witnessed this interest as she visited the classrooms. 

“Students have been highly engaged, have a true curiosity and want to learn more about 9/11.  Students are excited that what they are doing is going to be published in some fashion,” said Dodd.  

Once students have completed their memoirs, their family stories will be bound with a cover created from student artwork and for sale at cost to the community. 

“It’s our hope that we can preserve the experiences of families in Ozark so that students and their families can continue to remember where they were and what they experienced on this memorable day in our country,” said Poepsel. 

Students Write Family Memoir of Day