Discussions of September 11 will naturally raise complex questions, and it may also trigger strong and even unfamiliar feelings. While demonstrating the worst of human nature and the capacity for hateful ideologies to lead to extreme acts of violence and inhumanity, September 11 also revealed the profound human capacity to care for one another and to recognize our common humanity in acts of spontaneous generosity and response, transcending differences of race, nationality, religion, economic strata and political affiliation.
Our goals reflect both aspects of the 9/11 story, while acknowledging the unfinished nature of this story and the continuing ambiguities surrounding a full understanding the significance of these relatively recent, historical events:
- Broaden the context for understanding the 9/11 attacks.
- Provide opportunities for the public to make meaningful and purposeful connections between the history of 9/11 and their own lives.
- Support rigorous academic research that reflects an evolving understanding of 9/11.
- Ensure that all secondary school students have access to accurate information about 9/11.
- Establish and maintain an authentic, respected forum for ongoing reflection, discussion and debate about evolving perceptions, attitudes and questions arising from the events and aftermath of 9/11.
- Suggest ways to honor the memory of those killed and extend involvement with the legacy of 9/11 though acts of civic/community involvement and volunteerism.
Key Education Questions
There are still many questions about the events of September 11. Some questions can be readily answered. What happened? Who did this? Other questions may have multiple answers. Why would someone do this? And, still other questions may require visitor reflection and action: What does this mean for me? What can or should I do about all of this?
The 9/11 Memorial Museum will provide a safe place to raise questions and begin conversations about difficult topics prompted by an encounter with the story of September 11. Through our exhibitions, programs and materials the Memorial Museum will encourage visitors to consider some of these questions. For example:
We are taught to respect differences, but how should we react to groups whose views are fundamentally antithetical to our own values and ideals? How do we deal with communities of hate?
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, a "world community" emerged; people from all walks of life and all parts of the world joined together to help. The tremendous goodwill lasted for a while and then dissipated. Do we need a crisis to bring us together? Are there other ways to build and sustain that sense of fellowship?
Terrorism is designed to promote fear and anxiety, and inevitably, it challenges basic assumptions about personal, national and global security. How can democratic societies protect civil liberties and freedoms in the face of increased insecurity?
Acts of terrorism reinforce awareness of communities of difference, heightening a sense of "us" versus "them." How can we resist the impulse to view other people stereotypically or as monolithic "others"? How can we balance appropriate caution with curiosity about other communities and respect for diversity?
The scale of death and destruction that resulted from 9/11 made Americans feel vulnerable in ways that were new and unfamiliar. How can we use this insight to create greater connections of empathy with others who have suffered, or continue to experience, violence and tragedy elsewhere in the world?
We live in a world of heightened risk and fear, but we can choose to live our lives according to the values we cherish. How can the new forms of communication and technology that have expanded social networks be used to explore our respective values and deepen our connections and sense of responsibility to others?