New York Lit visits 9/11 memorial

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On Thursday, Nov. 14, English teacher William Martino’s New York Literature class travelled to the city to spend time at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, experience the culture and diversity of New York, and connect with the text from class in a whole new way. 

This trip also took place last year, where the class mainly went to go watch a play. This year, Mr. Martino decided to do something different, as the twin towers were discussed in the book they are reading, “Let the Great World Spin” by Colum McCann. The students first drove to Fordham University and then took the train to Grand Central. From there, they took the subway to the Financial District and then went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. At the museum, the students were guided through an inquiry-based lesson with a tour guide, where they learned about three artifacts from the tragedy–a portion of the antenna from the north tower, an elevator motor, and a fire truck. Without telling the students anything, the tour guide, Nicole, asked questions about each artifact. 

Mr. Martino said he felt this experience was really unique. “Inquiry-based learning is something we are trying to promote here at KO, and it was cool to see her adopting the same pedagogie,” he said. Senior Brandon Stake said that the museum was his favorite part. “I learned so much more about 9/11 than just the plane hijackings,” he said. Senior Jamie Amell also said that his favorite part was being able to explore the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. “Although we didn’t spend a lot of time walking around the museum on our own, it was extremely moving to hear stories about first responders and people inside the building,” he said. “We also learned a lot about the towers and how their construction affected how quickly they collapsed.”

After that, students went to Greenwich Village where they had  some free time to walk around Washington Square park, and also did a brief walking tour of the West Village. Mr. Martino said that he felt it was important to show the students a different part of New York. “People in the Northeast love Boston, but New York was home for me, I felt it was important to show them the residential, quieter, cleaner side of New York, and they were pretty pleasantly surprised,” he said. The students also walked across the High Line, a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park. They ate dinner in Chelsea Market where they had a variety of options to choose from, before taking the train home. Senior Bella Leuschner said her favorite part of the trip was being able to spend time in the Meatpacking district and Chelsea Market. “It was really cool and it was a beautiful fall day,” she said. 

Mr. Martino said that while the trip was emotional, it was an important connection to their discussions in class. “It was a heavy visit, as we were overwhelmed with all types of emotions,” he said. He also said that the trip was a great way to experience the different images from the book they were reading. “‘Let the Great World Spin’ is about the connectivity of the city, with all these different New York voices telling a story about what they were doing the day Philippe Petit tightroped between the twin towers,” he said. “It’s all about community and this shared experience.”

English Department Chair Catherine Schieffelin, who also accompanied the students on the trip, said that Mr. Martino did a great job of making the students aware of these settings that they had only imagined. “The purpose of the visit was to make real the settings the kids were immersed in, in the texts they were reading,” she said. “Mr. Martino would gather everyone and play tour guide, with a very narrow lens, pinpointing exact locations from various moments in the novel.” Brandon said the experience was very helpful and eye-opening. “I learned a lot more about the layout and landmarks in New York City, which brought light to references in the books we are reading,” he said. Jamie said he agreed that the trip really brought everything together.

“This semester all of our books have been connected to New York, and the trip helped tie the course together, he said. “Mr. Martino has been telling the class stories from when he went to school and lived in the city on his own. These stories ranged from his experiences running in the city to his personal story from 9/11 and the effect it had on the city and the people he knew around him.”

Bella said that, overall, the trip enriched her experience in the course. “It was about becoming indulged in the city and understanding the great obsession that is New York City, and it made me love the course even more,” she said. “It was such a cool trip because it wasn’t like any other school trip; there was no following project or writing assignment. It was just to give us an experience to see the city that we read so much about.” Ms. Schieffelin said that she hopes to work more trips like these into the English curriculum because they can really enrich students’ learning experiences by developing greater connections with the text.

Mr. Martino said that, most importantly, the trip was about honoring what happened on 9/11, and to have students develop a connection with it. “This is the first class that I taught that wasn’t even born when 9/11 happened, and as much as we try to honor it, it’s harder for students to make a real connection with the tragedy as time goes on,” he said.