MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome back to "Metro Connection," I'm Rebecca Sheir. And today's show is all about September 11, 2001 and the many ways, both large and small, the events of that day continue to touch our lives here in the D.C. region. Military families feel the impact of 9/11 every day, especially if they've experienced multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Education reporter, Kavitha Cardoza, visited a school at the Marine Corp base in Quantico, Virginia, to talk with students and teachers about how they're marking the anniversary of a truly world changing day.
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
Seventeen-year-old Ashton Stout's father has been deployed a dozen times since September 11th.
MS. ASHTON STOUT
He missed most of those milestones. If you were going to middle school, that's a big step, your first step of high school, you want both your parents to be there.
Tears stream down her cheeks as she remembers the mantra she used to recite every day.
He's going to be home, he's got a job to be done and he'll be okay.
Each of the almost 300 children at this school has a personal and profound connection to September 11th, even though most are too young to remember the details of that day. Paul Roy runs the Marine Corp Junior ROTC program on base.
MR. PAUL ROY
They're living through Iraq, they're living through Afghanistan and so it may not be 9/11, but for them, right now, this is their 9/11.
And so for educators, many of whom have been active duty military, talking to their students about that day, can be delicate. Some children don't watch the news at all while others obsessively pull up places on Google Earth, to feel closer to their parents, some withdraw while others act out. Robert Hume teaches social studies and has served in Iraq since September 11th.
MR. ROBERT HUME
To actually watch 20 minutes of uninterrupted view of this unfolding, it's pretty horrifying for some of the kids. But for me, I think it's important, as a teacher, that they see that, that they understand this is what happened to us as a country. And this is a lot of the reasons why your parents are doing what they're doing today.
Hume usually sticks to the issues in class, the impact of the Patriot Act and what global terrorism means. He also spends time correcting misinformation. Hume says, many students believe Iraqi's attacked the United States that day. For some teachers, it's dealing with their own emotions over what happened. Judith Ward says she dreads talking to her students about that day.
MS. JUDITH WARD
Our children didn't ask this -- ask for all this. They don’t have anything to do with this. And that is my concern, trying to protect them, trying to teach them, trying to get them to understand how cruel the world can be. I'm sorry.
But Paul Roy, the ROTC instructor, confronts his students situations head-on.
We do bring up the fact when your parents do go away, you need to understand and accept the fact that we may not come back.
Why would you be so direct about what could happen?
Because of my experience. When I came back in 1983, my unit, we lost 241 Marines. We were not thinking when we left our loved ones and six months later, coming back, we were going to have 241 funerals. It was devastating.
These military children refer to September 11th as the day that everything changed, telephone calls instead of hugs, care packages instead of outings. They've developed their own ways of coping. Quinnton Richman says he would draw picture after picture of his father every time he deployed.
MR. QUINNTON RICHMAN
My dad kicking butt in Iraq and Afghanistan, shooting missiles, lighting it up. It made the sadness go away. I couldn't imagine my life without my dad. And I know so many kids who've had to deal with that and it just really -- pains me to think of it.
Students here say when a classmate is absent for a few days, they understand it's because one of their parents is deploying and they tread very carefully when asking each other how a parent is. Seventeen-year-old Ronald Harold explains.
MR. RONALD HAROLD
If I were to ask someone did you hear from your mom, and she was deployed and they said, well, they haven't got back, I would try to cut them off at that point. It's probably nothing. She's probably just working on the letter right now. You got to cut them off and then start something positive before the full thought's processed.
Ronald says he thinks about that day a lot.
Every time I see the number 9/11, like, whether it's on the clock and it just -- coincidence, it's not just a number anymore, it's -- you sit there and think about it for a little bit. Yes, ma'am.
What are you thinking about?
I'm thinking maybe if someone would've noticed that someone missed at the airport, like, just saw and didn't second guess themselves or decide, oh, it's no big deal.
That's a pretty big burden for a 17-year-old to carry.
Yes, ma'am. But I mean, I don't mind carrying the burden because I want to go into the Marine Corp and serve my country, so I'm down.
For children and educators in the military, September 11th isn't just an event, the aftermath has become a way of life. I'm Kavitha Cardoza.
If you or a family member has been deployed in the years since September 11th, we want to hear how those events have affected your life, send us a note. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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