News9/11 - 20 Years Later


20 years later Omaha area teachers reflect on being in the classroom on 9/11

Posted at 8:41 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 21:41:14-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On September 11, 2001 KMTV went into a junior high classroom to see how students and teachers were reacting to the infamous day.

20 years later, 3 News Now spoke with a teacher that taught that day, as well as an educator who was a high school student on September 11.

“I remember everything about that day, especially the morning where it all first unfolded,” said Tim Royers.

Tim Royers was a junior at Millard West on September 11.

He remembers where he was when he heard about the attacks, where he was sitting in class and what was discussed in class.

“Just trying to piece together who could’ve done it and what the context might have been and how will we respond and what equivalent events have already happened in history. Which there really weren’t any,” said Royers.

He remembers thinking at the time how vulnerable some of his teachers were when trying to explain to high schoolers what happened.

“To hear them try and process their emotions with us really helped and to know they were at a loss of ‘I don’t know how to approach this as an educator,'” said Royers.

On that same day, it was a different approach at Skinner Magnet Elementary, TV’s were turned off for the younger students, with teachers in all classrooms trying to get through the day.

“For me, myself, I did not make what was happening the main focus throughout the day, I tried to keep it as normal as possible even though we did have the tv on and even though this was occurring. We were instructed to make the day as normal as possible for the kids sake,” said Spomer.

Marie Spomer, a 29-year teaching veteran at Omaha Public Schools, was teaching 6th grade at the time and was told not to upset the children.

“You are definitely not prepared for this,” said Spomer. “You have to be very, very careful with them emotionally.”

Outside of lunch of planning periods where she could gather details and share her own thoughts with colleagues, she kept teaching while processing her own emotions.

“Since you can’t do much during the day with kids, you have to actually lock it in, I pretty much had to keep it to myself,” said Spomer.

Royers, now president of the Millard Education Association, taught 9/11 history to high schoolers for over a decade.

“When I first started teaching, it was still an event that they themselves remembered as kids,” said Royers. “Now high school kids, they weren't alive when it happened.”

“They only know a post-9/11 world, and so even just telling anecdotal stories like being able to greet somebody right at the gate of an airport is something that they would never even imagine now," he said.

Royers says teaching context and how students' lives are shaped by 9/11 can help the kids understand the larger picture.

“Building that kind of empathy and change their understanding is really critical to get why for the folks that were alive when it happened, it is such a huge deal for all of us,” said Royers.

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