20 Years Since 9/11

A Ramaz assembly on 9/11 in 2020.

A Ramaz assembly on 9/11 in 2020.

Andrew Spielfogel ’23

The Ramaz Upper School attempts to involve its students with current events— whether it’s a guest speaker for MLK day, protesting Ben and Jerry’s, or even cleaning up Puerto Rico after a hurricane. One of the biggest incidents in American history is the tragedy of September 11th, and Ramaz always spreads awareness of this catastrophe that occurred 20 years ago. Though Ramaz did not make a full school assembly this year and only permitted a handful of students to visit the local firefighters on 85th street (due to the circumstances), the awareness spread throughout the school was sufficient.

Many students were expecting the usual 9/11 assembly and chesed project, but the timing did not allow for this. It is devastating that 20 years have passed since September 11th, and that there are no longer students in the high school who were alive in 2001 to witness the attack on the twin towers. Therefore, Generation Z needs to connect to the day as much as they can so that those who passed won’t be forgotten. Ramaz managed to discuss 9/11 even on the first day of school. The Jewish holidays did not allow school to begin until September 9, which was orientation. The first real day of school was on September 10 which was a Friday, and September 11th fell on a Saturday this year. It was extremely difficult to spend the majority of the first day of school discussing a tragic event, so it only made sense for the students to participate in a few small projects throughout the day. On that Friday, there were speeches during Tefillah, a video posted on Schoology where teachers were interviewed about their 9/11 experiences, and a table set up in the lobby on the following Monday morning which had biographies of victims for students to read. There were also pictures of all the firemen who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack who were in the local precinct of Ramaz. 

Mrs. Krupka described the difficulties of planning a full-school 9/11 assembly this year, and noted the reasons why Ramaz chose to inject small aspects of 9/11 into the students. “I’d like us to consider doing more class time learning about 9/11. We were in a very tough, tight situation this year, because there was only one school day before 9/11 (the first day of school) and barely any immediately after. The problem was getting everyone oriented to school while also commemorating the day, especially considering that it was such a momentous anniversary in the 20th year. We were really trying to come up with things that would create a feeling in the school, but not necessarily take out of meeting your teacher for the first time in class.” Additionally, the Friday of September 10th was only the first day of school for Juniors and Sophomores, and freshmen were still in the two-day orientation process. Because of these issues, there was no functional time to fit in a full school assembly.

In addition to the poor timing, a full, in-person school assembly was not possible due to COVID-19. Ramaz protocols state that students must remain 3 feet apart, and there is no space in the auditorium– the biggest room at Ramaz– to fit enough chairs to meet the distance requirements. Being the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the local fire station asked for very few students to visit as it is a particularly painful year for them. Hence, only a handful of students were offered the opportunity to pay respects to the fireman. As a result of the 20th anniversary, COVID-19, and timing, September 11th was not memorialized in its typical fashion at the Ramaz Upper School.

43 students gave feedback concerning their 9/11 experience in school this year. A two-question survey was sent to the three upper classes. The first question asked the student if they were upset because there was no full-school 9/11 assembly, and 65.1% answered yes. The purpose of the second question was to understand which aspect of 9/11 in school the students connected with. The options included the video, the table in the lobby, speeches at Shacharit minyanim, and if they didn’t connect to anything. 39.5% of the 43 students said that they didn’t connect to anything, 30.2% enjoyed the table in the lobby, 16.3% liked the video the most, and 14% felt appreciated the speeches at davening.

Students were then directly asked if they were upset that there was no school assembly. “I think that having a full school assembly is very beneficial because it allows students to hear from someone. Since none of us were alive when 9/11 transpired, it’s very important and special to hear from people who were there and remember it,” said Jenny Davis ’23. Julius Zimbler ’22 said that “I think it’s always nice every year for us to have that 9/11 school assembly because it’s always interesting to listen to the speakers’ stories. The bios of the victims were not equivalent with the usual assembly but close to being on par.”

Rabbi Dov Pianko, Student Activity Director, responded to the statistics of this survey: “It was interesting to see the results of this survey. As we move past the 20th anniversary of 9/11/01, it’s good to know there is a majority of students who want to spend time together with their peers learning about this important part of our history. I would like for all interested students to know if they have ideas or want to be a part of the process for creating and discussing content for assemblies (for this or in general) to reach out to me.”