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From Terror to Hope

We bring you the story of a girl who was in school just a few blocks from the World Trade Center when the planes hit on September 11, 2001. A powerful personal essay about growing up Muslim in post 9/11 America follows the article.

By Kristin Lewis
From the September 2016 Issue

Learning Objective: to explain how the article’s title applies to both the article and the personal essay

Lexiles: 1010L, 820L
Other Key Skills: text structure, author’s craft, interpreting text, synthesis, key ideas, inference
Topic: History,

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As you read the article and study the images think about what the article’s title means.

From Terror to Hope

Courtesy of Helaina Hovitz

The morning of September 11, 2001, dawned cool and bright in New York City, a welcome relief after the steamy summer rain the day before. Like most of the 8 million people who lived in the city, 12-year-old Helaina Hovitz was getting ready for the day. An only child, Helaina lived in a tall apartment building at the southern end of Manhattan. She brushed her hair one last time and dashed out the door.

Outside, Helaina and her friend Nadine wove their way through the hustle and bustle of downtown Manhattan to their middle school. Around them, the city vibrated with life. Men and women in perfectly pressed suits emerged from the subways, clutching their coffee cups and newspapers. Police officers directed traffic. The sound of construction and honking taxis formed a familiar cacophony.

To many New Yorkers, the city felt like the center of the world—a place of opportunity, business, culture, and diversity. Step into any subway car, and you could find yourself sandwiched between a millionaire banker, a tattooed teenager speaking French, and a photojournalist from South Africa.

Perhaps nothing symbolized the power and possibilities of New York City more than the pair of buildings that rose up from the World Trade Center at the southern tip of Manhattan: the Twin Towers. At 110 stories, the two silver skyscrapers were the tallest in New York and could be seen for miles around. Helaina passed under their shadows each day on her way to school. But as she walked to school on the morning of September 11, what Helaina could not have imagined was that the city she loved was about to be attacked.

The morning of September 11, 2001, dawned cool and bright in New York City. Helaina Hovitz was 12. Like most of the 8 million people who lived in the city, she was getting ready for the day. Helaina lived in a tall apartment building at the southern end of Manhattan. She brushed her hair one last time and dashed out the door.

Outside, Helaina and her friend Nadine wove their way through downtown Manhattan to their middle school. Around them, the city teemed with life. Men and women in spotless suits emerged from the subways, clutching coffee cups and newspapers. Police officers directed traffic. The sound of construction and honking taxis formed a familiar cacophony.

To many New Yorkers, the city felt like the center of the world—a place of business and culture, a place where anything could happen. Step into any subway car, and you might be sandwiched between a millionaire banker, a tattooed teen speaking French, and a journalist from South Africa.

Perhaps nothing symbolized the power and possibilities of New York City more than the pair of buildings that rose up from the World Trade Center at the southern tip of Manhattan: the Twin Towers. The two silver skyscrapers could be seen for miles around. Helaina passed under their shadow daily on her way to school.

On the morning of September 11, she did not know that the city she loved was about to be attacked.

“Take Me With You”

The floor shook.

The shelves rattled.

It was 8:46 a.m., and Helaina was sitting in first-period science. The students looked at each other in surprise. What was that strange noise? Helaina darted to the window, trying to see what was going on. She guessed a passing truck had popped a tire. But in fact, terrorists had deliberately crashed an airplane into one of the Twin Towers—the North Tower—a few blocks from Helaina’s school.

Then the sirens began.

Helaina’s teacher stepped out for a moment. When he returned, he told the class to gather their things and head to the cafeteria. Rumors flew. The bomb squad appeared. Meanwhile, a second plane crashed into the South Tower. The principal announced that the school was to be evacuated in five minutes.

Almost immediately, parents began pouring into the building, hastily grabbing their children. Students whose parents couldn’t get to them were to be taken to a safe zone. Helaina’s mom worked far uptown, and her dad was across New York Harbor in Staten Island. Helaina knew there was no way they would be able to make it to her school anytime soon. She spotted her neighbor Charles and his mother, Ann.

“Take me with you,” Helaina pleaded.

Ann agreed, cleared it with the principal, and the trio stepped outside. Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw.

The floor shook.

The shelves rattled.

It was 8:46 a.m. Helaina was in science class. The students looked at each other in surprise. What was that strange noise? Helaina raced to the window, trying to see what was going on. She guessed a passing truck had popped a tire. In fact, terrorists had deliberately crashed an airplane into one of the Twin Towers—the North Tower—just blocks from Helaina’s school.

Then the sirens began.

Helaina’s teacher stepped out for a moment. When he returned, he told the class that someone had bombed the World Trade Center. Students were to gather their things and head to the lunchroom. Rumors flew. The bomb squad appeared. Someone said a second plane had been crashed into the South Tower. The principal announced that the school was to be evacuated in 5 minutes.

Parents arrived and grabbed their kids. Students whose parents couldn’t get there were to be taken to a safe zone. Helaina’s mom worked far uptown, and her dad was across New York Harbor in Staten Island. Helaina knew they couldn’t get to her school anytime soon. She saw her neighbor Charles and his mother, Ann.

“Take me with you,” she begged.

Ann cleared it with the principal. The three stepped outside. What they saw shocked them.

HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP/Getty Images

THE DAY OF TERROR
The view of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, from across the East River in Brooklyn

Who Were the Terrorists?

The horrifying events of September 11 started before Helaina was even born. In the late 1980s, a man named Osama bin Laden formed a terrorist group called Al Qaeda (ahl KAI-duh). During the 1990s, Al Qaeda operated mainly in the countries of Sudan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Bin Laden and Al Qaeda followed an extreme form of Islam that the vast majority of Muslims do not agree with. Al Qaeda adopted a hateful and murderous ideology of using terrorism to “punish” Western countries for their perceived crimes against Islam. They vowed to wreak terror on the U.S. in particular. In Afghanistan, Al Qaeda was protected by the Taliban, an extreme religious group that controlled most of the country.

Bin Laden was a longtime enemy of the U.S. Al Qaeda had bombed two U.S. embassies, in Tanzania and Kenya, in 1998, and the Navy ship USS Cole in 2000.

Investigations would later reveal that 19 Al Qaeda operatives carried out the attacks of September 11, which they had been planning for years. That morning, they hijacked four airplanes and turned them into weapons. They flew the first two planes into the Twin Towers, near Helaina’s school. An hour later, they crashed the third plane into the Pentagon—the headquarters of the U.S. military, near Washington, D.C. The fourth plane may have been intended for the White House. But in an act of tremendous courage, the passengers managed to overpower the hijackers and gave their lives bringing down the plane in a field in Pennsylvania.

The events of September 11 started before Helaina was even born. In the late 1980s, a man named Osama bin Laden formed a terrorist group called Al Qaeda. During the 1990s, the group operated mainly in the countries of Sudan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Bin Laden and Al Qaeda followed an extreme form of the religion Islam, a form that most Muslims don’t support. Al Qaeda adopted a hateful and murderous ideology of using terrorism to “punish” Western countries for their perceived crimes against Islam. They vowed to wreak terror on the United States in particular. In Afghanistan, Al Qaeda was protected by the Taliban, an extreme religious group that controlled most of the country.

Bin Laden was a longtime enemy of the U.S. Al Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies, in Tanzania and Kenya, in 1998. It bombed the Navy ship USS Cole in 2000.

Investigations would later show that 19 Al Qaeda operatives carried out the attacks of September 11. They had been planning it for years. That morning, they hijacked four planes and turned them into weapons. They flew the first two planes into the Twin Towers, near Helaina’s school. An hour later, they crashed the third plane into the Pentagon— the headquarters of the U.S. military, in Washington, D.C. The fourth plane may have been intended for the White House. But the passengers managed to overpower the hijackers and gave their lives bringing down the plane in a field in Pennsylvania.

Confusion and Chaos

In the confusion and chaos of that Tuesday morning, few understood what was happening. In New York, firefighters, police officers, and other first responders converged on lower Manhattan, risking their lives to rescue as many people as they could from the burning buildings. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani addressed the public on radio and TV. President George W. Bush, who was reading to a class of second-graders when he got news of the attacks, was rushed to the White House, where he convened with military leaders.

Meanwhile, Helaina, Ann, and Charles were trying desperately to get home.

Out on the street, Helaina felt like she’d been plunged into a horrifying disaster movie. Paper and ash rained from the sky. Injured men and women were being loaded into ambulances. The sounds of shouting filled the air. Some people stood transfixed, staring up in disbelief at the plumes of fire and smoke gushing from two gaping holes in the sides of the towers.

In the chaos of that Tuesday morning, few understood what was happening. In New York, firefighters, police officers, and other first responders converged on lower Manhattan, risking their lives to rescue people from the burning buildings. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani addressed the public on radio and TV. President George W. Bush was reading to a class of second-graders when he got news of the attacks. He was rushed to the White House, where he convened with military leaders.

Meanwhile, Helaina, Ann, and Charles were trying to get home.

Helaina felt like she’d been plunged into a disaster movie. Paper and ash rained from the sky. The injured were being loaded onto ambulances. Shouts filled the air. Some people just stood and stared at the fire and smoke gushing from holes in the sides of the Twin Towers.

Jim Sugar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

THE HUNT FOR OSAMA BIN LADEN

Osama bin Laden was tracked down and killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011. The mission was carried out by a team of Navy SEALs. Navy SEALs are highly trained members of the U.S. Navy. They are widely considered to be among the most elite soldiers in the world.

Ghosts

The Twin Towers were as iconic as the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. And they were the crown jewels of the World Trade Center—an enormous complex that included a plaza, an underground shopping mall, and seven buildings. Some 50,000 people worked there.

To many, the towers symbolized America’s economic power. But to Helaina, the World Trade Center was simply part of the landscape of home—the place where she and her mom got doughnuts, where she shopped for books, where she could go on hayrides in the fall or catch music shows.

Now, as Ann led Charles and Helaina through the ash-filled streets, that landscape was unrecognizable.

Smoke stung Helaina’s eyes and nose. Ann told her to cover her face with her shirt. Surges of people pushed past, their clothes and faces thick with ash. Helaina thought they looked like ghosts.

When she caught her own reflection in a window, she was shocked to see that she, too, looked like a ghost.

The Twin Towers were designed to withstand powerful forces. But the fires burned so hot that they melted the buildings’ steel frames. Seventy-three minutes after the first plane struck, the South Tower collapsed. Twenty-nine minutes after that, the North Tower fell. From Los Angeles to London, from Tokyo to Cairo, people sat glued to their televisions, staring in shock and disbelief as two of the most recognizable buildings in the world disintegrated.

When the smoke finally cleared, there was only sky.

The World Trade Center was a huge complex. It included a plaza, an underground shopping mall, and seven buildings. Some 50,000 people worked there.

The Twin Towers were the crown jewels of the World Trade Center. They were the tallest skyscrapers in New York City. They were as iconic as the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. To many, the Towers symbolized America’s economic power. But to Helaina, the World Trade Center was just part of the landscape of home. It was the place where she and her mom got doughnuts, where she shopped for books, where she could go on hayrides in the fall or see concerts.

Now that landscape was forever changed.

Smoke stung Helaina’s eyes and nose. Ann told her to cover her face with her shirt. People pushed past, their clothes and faces thick with ash. Helaina thought they looked like ghosts. When she caught her own reflection in a window, she was shocked to see she looked the same.

The Twin Towers were designed to withstand powerful forces. But the fires burned so hot that they melted the buildings’ steel frames. Seventy-three minutes after the first plane struck the North Tower, the South Tower collapsed. Twenty-nine minutes after that, the North Tower fell. From Los Angeles to London, from Tokyo to Cairo, people sat glued to their TVs, staring in shock as two of the world’s best-known modern buildings crumbled.

When the smoke cleared, there was only sky.

The Coming Weeks

It took nearly an hour for Helaina to get home—a trip that usually took less than 15 minutes. She spent the rest of the day with her grandparents, who lived a few floors above her. She was reunited with her mother that afternoon and her father the next morning.

Similar stories unfolded throughout the city as friends and family rushed to find one another. But not every story had a fortunate ending. In the coming days, there was an outpouring of grief for the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives in the attacks. Newspapers and magazines told stories of heroism—of firefighters who charged into the burning buildings to save others and of office workers who carried their injured colleagues down smoke-filled stairwells.

The wreckage of the buildings stood 17 stories high and would smolder for months, blanketing lower Manhattan in a toxic haze. New Yorkers tried to get back to normal, but for many living near the World Trade Center—including Helaina—this was impossible. Many were without power for days after the attacks. Some stayed in shelters. The residents in Helaina’s building stayed put. Her father took on the job of checking on elderly neighbors, delivering food, water, and medications, and acting as a liaison with local authorities.

It took nearly an hour for Helaina to get home—a trip that usually took less than 15 minutes. She spent the rest of the day with her grandparents, who lived a few floors above her. She was reunited with her mom that afternoon and her dad the next day.

Throughout the city, friends and family rushed to find each other. For many, the news was bad. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks. Newspapers and magazines told stories of heroism—of firefighters who charged into the burning buildings to save others and of office workers who carried their injured colleagues down smokefilled stairwells.

The wreckage of the buildings stood 17 stories high and would smolder for months, blanketing lower Manhattan in a toxic haze. In the meantime, New Yorkers tried to get back to normal. But for many living near the World Trade Center, this was impossible. Many were without power for days after the attacks. Some stayed in shelters. The residents in Helaina’s building stayed put. Her dad checked on elderly neighbors. He delivered food, water, and medications. He also acted as a liaison with local authorities.

The War Begins

As the country was reeling, President Bush mobilized the U.S. military. An international hunt for Osama bin Laden began. (It would take nearly 10 years to find him. He was killed in 2011 when U.S. forces raided the compound in Pakistan where he was hiding.) There was an outpouring of support and sympathy for the U.S. from many countries, and leaders around the world rallied behind America.

On October 7, 2001, U.S. forces began bombing and raiding Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda was believed to be hiding. The Taliban were quickly ousted from power. This was the beginning of a bloody conflict that continues to this day.

The events of September 11, 2001, profoundly shaped the world we now live in. In the U.S., new laws and procedures were put in place to protect against future attacks. Airport security was overhauled. President Bush created a new agency called the Department of Homeland Security.

Perhaps most important, the attacks shook our sense of safety and changed the way we go about our lives. On trains, announcements about unattended packages make us shift uncomfortably in our seats. We practice emergency drills at school and work. And sadly, the word terrorism is now part of our everyday vocabulary.

As the country was reeling, President Bush mobilized the U.S. military. An international hunt for Osama bin Laden began, though it would take nine years to catch and kill him. Many countries showed their support for the U.S. International leaders rallied behind America.

On October 7, U.S. forces began bombing and raiding Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda was believed to be hiding. The Taliban were ousted from power. This was the start of a bloody conflict that continues to this day.

The events of September 11 profoundly shaped the world we now live in. In the U.S., new laws and procedures were put in place to protect against future attacks. Airport security procedures were overhauled. President Bush created a new agency called Homeland Security.

But perhaps more important, the attacks shook our sense of safety. They changed the way we go about our lives. On trains, we shift nervously in our seats when we hear announcements about unattended packages. We practice emergency drills at school and work. And sadly, the word terrorism is now part of our everyday vocabulary.

Matthew T. Carroll/Moment/Getty images

The 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center

Rebuilding Hope

Experiencing a devastating event will affect different people in different ways. For Helaina and for many others, dealing with the horrors of what they witnessed on September 11 has been a long and painful process.

Three weeks after the attacks, Helaina and her classmates returned to school in a temporary location uptown. They remained there until the spring, when their school could be reopened. Helaina and her family continued to live near what became known as Ground Zero. Like so many, she has struggled with sadness, depression, anxiety, and nightmares.

It would take eight years for Helaina to be properly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a psychiatric disorder that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. But after hard work and treatment, Helaina is doing well. She is now 27 and a successful journalist. She started her own news agency called Headlines for the Hopeful, in which she features articles about people who are changing the world in positive ways. She also tracked down her former classmates and interviewed them about their memories of September 11. Her memoir, After 9/11, will arrive in bookstores this month.

The city of New York has been on its own road to recovery.

Lower Manhattan again teems with life. The smell of sizzling kebabs wafts from the food trucks that line the streets at lunchtime. Tourists snap pictures with selfie sticks. Cyclists weave through traffic. A new skyscraper called the Freedom Tower now rises mere steps from where the Twin Towers once stood. Every day, 4,000 men and women go to work there.

Each year on the anniversary of September 11, two streams of light are beamed from the World Trade Center. They can be seen for miles around. The lights ascend into the sky until they disappear into the night. They stand as powerful reminders of what New York lost that day 15 years ago. But they also symbolize a powerful truth: that New York is a city of tolerance, beauty, and grit that no act of evil can destroy. 

For Helaina, dealing with the horrors of what she witnessed on September 11 has been a long and painful process.

Three weeks after the attacks, she and her classmates returned to school in a temporary space. They stayed there until the spring, when their school could reopen. Helaina and her family went on living near what became known as Ground Zero. Like so many, she has struggled with sadness, nightmares, anxiety, and depression.

Helaina was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome. This psychiatric disorder can occur after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. But after hard work and treatment, Helaina is doing well. Now 27, she’s a successful journalist. She started a news agency called Headlines for Hope. She reports on people who are changing the world in positive ways. Helaina also interviewed her former classmates about their memories of September 11. Her memoir, After 9-11, goes on sale this month.

The city of New York is recovering too.

Lower Manhattan again teems with life. The smell of sizzling kebabs wafts from the food trucks that line the streets. Tourists pose with selfie sticks. Cyclists weave through the traffic. A new skyscraper called the Freedom Tower now stands mere steps from where the Twin Towers once stood. Every day, 4,000 men and women go to work there.

Each year on September 11, two streams of light are beamed from the World Trade Center. They can be seen for miles around. The lights remind us of what New York lost that day 15 years ago. But they also remind us that New York is a city of tolerance, beauty, and grit that no act of evil can destroy. 

Growing Up Muslim in Post 9/11 America 

Courtesy of RJ Khalaf

I was only 5 years old on September 11, 2001. I watched my mom cry as she watched the news and held my newborn baby brother. I was so confused. Why were people on the news saying that Muslims were doing these terrible things?

I bought a pen with a photo of the firefighters raising an American flag over the rubble of the Twin Towers. “I’m an American,” I thought. “I’m on the same page as everyone else.”

When I got older, I learned what had happened—a group of terrorists had killed thousands of Americans. I knew the people who did this were not like me. They did not share my beliefs. And I knew that this was going to be something that a lot of people were not going to understand.

I was only 5 years old on September 11, 2001. I watched my mom cry as she watched the news and held my newborn baby brother. I was so confused. Why were people on the news saying that Muslims were doing these terrible things?

I bought a pen with a photo of the firefighters raising an American flag over the rubble of the Twin Towers. “I’m an American,” I thought. “I’m on the same page as everyone else.”

When I got older, I learned what had happened—a group of terrorists had killed thousands of Americans. I knew the people who did this were not like me. They did not share my beliefs. And I knew that this was going to be something that a lot of people were not going to understand.

Who I Am

I am Muslim. I believe in a religion where Islam means “peace,” a religion that teaches equality and fairness, a religion that teaches if you kill one person, it’s as if you’ve killed humanity. Our faith tells us not to look to the color of someone’s skin, for in the eyes of God we are all beautiful.

I am also an American. My father is from New Mexico, and my mom is from California. I grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I believe in our country’s values of generosity and freedom, the importance of taking care of one another, and standing up for what you believe in.

The 3.3 million other Muslims in this country believe in those things too. We want life, liberty, and happiness. We work hard. We are doctors, lawyers, and engineers. We are firefighters and police officers. We serve in the military. We want our families to be safe. And when unspeakably violent acts take place—like what happened in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, or more recently in Paris, Brussels, and Orlando—we share the same sadness and the same fears as everyone else. Islam is a religion of tolerance. Criminals who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam are missing that important tenet.

But that isn’t what I grew up hearing in the news. I grew up hearing that Muslims are terrorists. I didn’t see Muslims like me on TV or in the movies: The Muslims on the screen were evil. When a certain narrative is repeated over and over again, people start to believe it—especially when the other side of the story, the peaceful story that 99 percent of Muslims have to tell, doesn’t always get told.

I am Muslim. I believe in a religion where Islam means “peace,” a religion that teaches equality and fairness, a religion that teaches if you kill one person, it’s as if you’ve killed humanity. Our faith tells us not to look to the color of someone’s skin, for in the eyes of God we are all beautiful.

I am also an American. My father is from New Mexico, and my mom is from California. I grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I believe in our country’s values of generosity and freedom, the importance of taking care of one another, and standing up for what you believe in.

The 3.3 million other Muslims in this country believe in those things too. We want life, liberty, and happiness. We work hard. We are doctors, lawyers, and engineers. We are firefighters and police officers. We serve in the military. We want our families to be safe. And when unspeakably violent acts take place—like what happened in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, or more recently in Paris, Brussels, and Orlando—we share the same sadness and the same fears as everyone else. Islam is a religion of tolerance. Criminals who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam are missing that important tenet.

But that isn’t what I grew up hearing in the news. I grew up hearing that Muslims are terrorists. I didn’t see Muslims like me on TV or in the movies: The Muslims on the screen were evil. When a certain narrative is repeated over and over again, people start to believe it—especially when the other side of the story, the peaceful story that 99 percent of Muslims have to tell, doesn’t always get told. 

Turn and Smile

That’s one reason I started a Muslim Student Association at my high school. The club’s goal was to address negative stereotypes about Muslims. I also became my school’s first Muslim student body president, though I was told I wouldn’t get elected because of my religion. One classmate even tweeted, “If you vote for RJ, you obviously enjoy 9/11.”

I was so angry and hurt. But that sort of negativity fuels me now. It fuels me to stay involved. A lot of what we have to do is just talk to other people and learn about them—that’s how you change perceptions on a personal level. There is not one person on Earth who is exactly the same as you. We are all different. To understand the beauty behind those differences, we have to be willing to learn about them.

So if you are sitting next to a woman wearing a hijab, turn to her, smile, and say, “Hi. How are you?” Befriend her so you can understand her and realize that she’s so much more like you than you know. 

That’s one reason I started a Muslim Student Association at my high school. The club’s goal was to address negative stereotypes about Muslims. I also became my school’s first Muslim student body president, though I was told I wouldn’t get elected because of my religion. One classmate even tweeted, “If you vote for RJ, you obviously enjoy 9/11.”

I was so angry and hurt. But that sort of negativity fuels me now. It fuels me to stay involved. A lot of what we have to do is just talk to other people and learn about them—that’s how you change perceptions on a personal level. There is not one person on Earth who is exactly the same as you. We are all different. To understand the beauty behind those differences, we have to be willing to learn about them.

So if you are sitting next to a woman wearing a hijab, turn to her, smile, and say, “Hi. How are you?” Befriend her so you can understand her and realize that she’s so much more like you than you know. 

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Dig Deeper With These Amazing Texts
Guiding Question

How can we find hope after tragedy?

Speech: George W. Bush

As a class, watch President George W. Bush’s remarks to the nation on the night of September 11, 2011.

Video: The September 11 “Survivor Tree”

Have students view this video of the “survivor tree” that withstood the attacks on the World Trade Center. Ask: What does the survivor tree symbolize for New York City? What does it symbolize for America?

Speech: President Obama

As a class, read the full version of President Obama’s speech on the 10th anniversary of September 11. (An exceerpt of the speech is included on page 9 of the article.)

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

Close Reading, Critical Thinking, Skill Building

1. PREPARING TO READ

Watch a video. (15 minutes)

Project or distribute the Video Discussion Questions. Show our “Behind the Scenes” video. Then answer the discussion questions.

Preview vocabulary. (3 minutes)

  • Project or distribute the Vocabulary Words and Definitions for students to refer to as they read. Highlighted words: cacophony, convened, converged, hijacked, iconic, ideology, liaison, reeling, tenet, terrorism. Clarify that Islam is a religion and a Muslim is a person who practices Islam.

Watch a video. (15 minutes)

Project or distribute the Video Discussion Questions. Show our “Behind the Scenes” video. Then answer the discussion questions.

Preview vocabulary. (3 minutes)

  • Project or distribute the Vocabulary Words and Definitions for students to refer to as they read. Highlighted words: cacophony, convened, converged, hijacked, iconic, ideology, liaison, reeling, tenet, terrorism. Clarify that Islam is a religion and a Muslim is a person who practices Islam.

2. READING THE ARTICLE (35 minutes)

Read “From Terror to Hope” as a class, starting on page 5 with the “As You Read” box. Then discuss the following questions.

Close-Reading Questions

  • How does author Kristin Lewis develop the idea that the Twin Towers were special buildings? (author’s craft) On page 6, Lewis writes, “Perhaps nothing symbolized the power and possibilities of New York City more than [the Twin Towers]. . . ” She notes that they were the tallest buildings in New York and describes them as “silver skyscrapers,” making them sound beautiful. On page 7, she writes that the towers were “iconic” and notes that they symbolized America’s economic power. On page 8, Lewis calls the towers “two of the most recognizable buildings in the world.”
  • On page 8, Lewis writes, “And sadly, the word terrorism is now part of our everyday vocabulary.” What does she mean? (interpreting text) Lewis means that the attacks started an era of terrorism in the West, and that since September 11, Americans have worried more about the threat of terrorist attacks on our home soil.
  • The title “From Terror to Hope” suggests a journey. What journeys does Lewis describe? (text structure, central ideas) Lewis describes the journeys of Helaina Hovitz and of New York City starting from the attacks of September 11 through the struggle to return to normalcy to today, when both have largely recovered. Lewis weaves Helaina’s personal story into the larger story of 9/11 to show how both Helaina and New York have journeyed from terror to hope.
  • In the remarks on page 9, President Obama gives examples of people who showed heroism on September 11 as well as those who have shown “a more quiet form of heroism” in the years since. What does he mean by “a more quiet form of heroism”? Has Helaina shown this kind of quiet heroism? (interpreting text, synthesis) President Obama means that showing resilience after a tragedy is a form of heroism, even if it doesn’t receive the same kind of attention as rescuing people from a burning building. Strength, courage, and perseverance are required to continue on after a devastating event. Helaina definitely shows the kind of quiet heroism to which Obama refers; she suffered from PTSD for years but worked hard to recover and is now a writer.

Read “From Terror to Hope” as a class, starting on page 5 with the “As You Read” box. Then discuss the following questions.

Close-Reading Questions

  • How does author Kristin Lewis develop the idea that the Twin Towers were special buildings? (author’s craft) On page 6, Lewis writes, “Perhaps nothing symbolized the power and possibilities of New York City more than [the Twin Towers]. . . ” She notes that they were the tallest buildings in New York and describes them as “silver skyscrapers,” making them sound beautiful. On page 7, she writes that the towers were “iconic” and notes that they symbolized America’s economic power. On page 8, Lewis calls the towers “two of the most recognizable buildings in the world.”
  • On page 8, Lewis writes, “And sadly, the word terrorism is now part of our everyday vocabulary.” What does she mean? (interpreting text) Lewis means that the attacks started an era of terrorism in the West, and that since September 11, Americans have worried more about the threat of terrorist attacks on our home soil.
  • The title “From Terror to Hope” suggests a journey. What journeys does Lewis describe? (text structure, central ideas) Lewis describes the journeys of Helaina Hovitz and of New York City starting from the attacks of September 11 through the struggle to return to normalcy to today, when both have largely recovered. Lewis weaves Helaina’s personal story into the larger story of 9/11 to show how both Helaina and New York have journeyed from terror to hope.
  • In the remarks on page 9, President Obama gives examples of people who showed heroism on September 11 as well as those who have shown “a more quiet form of heroism” in the years since. What does he mean by “a more quiet form of heroism”? Has Helaina shown this kind of quiet heroism? (interpreting text, synthesis) President Obama means that showing resilience after a tragedy is a form of heroism, even if it doesn’t receive the same kind of attention as rescuing people from a burning building. Strength, courage, and perseverance are required to continue on after a devastating event. Helaina definitely shows the kind of quiet heroism to which Obama refers; she suffered from PTSD for years but worked hard to recover and is now a writer.

3. READING THE ESSAY (15 minutes)

  • As a class, read RJ Khalaf’s personal essay and answer the following questions.

Close-Reading Questions

  • According to RJ Khalaf’s essay, how did the September 11 attacks affect Muslim Americans? (key ideas, inference) The attacks affected Muslim Americans the same way they affected all Americans: They caused sadness and fear. In addition, the attacks led to an increase in prejudice against Muslims.
  • According to Khalaf, what can all of us do to help eliminate prejudice? (key ideas) We can get to know people who are different from us.

Still working as a class, respond to the following critical-thinking questions, which refer to both texts.

Critical-Thinking Questions (5 minutes)

  • Consider the targets of the September 11 attacks: the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and possibly the White House. Why might Al Qaeda have targeted these buildings in particular? All four buildings were symbolic of America’s power, success, and way of life. The terrorists probably wanted to target buildings that were both symbolic and familiar to make a statement and to make the attacks feel personal to many people.
  • How might Helaina’s news agency help people struggling to cope in the aftermath of a terrorist attack? Headlines for the Hopeful publishes articles about positive change. Reading such articles may remind people who are struggling to find hope after an act of terror that there is in fact much goodness in the world. The articles might even inspire people to take action, which could give them a sense of purpose and a positive focus.
  • Khalaf says he realized that a lot of people were not going to understand that the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks were not like him. Why wouldn’t people understand this? That is, what do you think caused people to stereotype Muslims after the attacks? Fear, a lack of information (and the spread of misinformation), and a desire for someone to blame may all have contributed to the stereotyping Muslims have faced since September 11. The media, by continuing to portray Muslims in a negative light, is likely a factor too, as Khalaf points out.
  • As a class, read RJ Khalaf’s personal essay and answer the following questions.

Close-Reading Questions

  • According to RJ Khalaf’s essay, how did the September 11 attacks affect Muslim Americans? (key ideas, inference) The attacks affected Muslim Americans the same way they affected all Americans: They caused sadness and fear. In addition, the attacks led to an increase in prejudice against Muslims.
  • According to Khalaf, what can all of us do to help eliminate prejudice? (key ideas) We can get to know people who are different from us.

Still working as a class, respond to the following critical-thinking questions, which refer to both texts.

Critical-Thinking Questions (5 minutes)

  • Consider the targets of the September 11 attacks: the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and possibly the White House. Why might Al Qaeda have targeted these buildings in particular? All four buildings were symbolic of America’s power, success, and way of life. The terrorists probably wanted to target buildings that were both symbolic and familiar to make a statement and to make the attacks feel personal to many people.
  • How might Helaina’s news agency help people struggling to cope in the aftermath of a terrorist attack? Headlines for the Hopeful publishes articles about positive change. Reading such articles may remind people who are struggling to find hope after an act of terror that there is in fact much goodness in the world. The articles might even inspire people to take action, which could give them a sense of purpose and a positive focus.
  • Khalaf says he realized that a lot of people were not going to understand that the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks were not like him. Why wouldn’t people understand this? That is, what do you think caused people to stereotype Muslims after the attacks? Fear, a lack of information (and the spread of misinformation), and a desire for someone to blame may all have contributed to the stereotyping Muslims have faced since September 11. The media, by continuing to portray Muslims in a negative light, is likely a factor too, as Khalaf points out.

4. SKILL BUILDING 

Featured Skill: Central Ideas and Details and Text Structure (15 minutes)

Distribute the activity sheet Analyzing the Title: From Terror to Hope, which will prepare students to respond to the prompt on page 10. For alternative culminating tasks, see the boxes below.

Featured Skill: Central Ideas and Details and Text Structure (15 minutes)

Distribute the activity sheet Analyzing the Title: From Terror to Hope, which will prepare students to respond to the prompt on page 10. For alternative culminating tasks, see the boxes below.

Teaching Tough Topics: Helpful Guidelines for Teaching 9/11

We understand that the topics of September 11 and terrorism require great sensitivity. For this reason, we sat down with two expert psychologists and asked them to help us come up with some tips for teaching this story in the classroom.  
Get the tips here on the Scope Ideabook.

We understand that the topics of September 11 and terrorism require great sensitivity. For this reason, we sat down with two expert psychologists and asked them to help us come up with some tips for teaching this story in the classroom.  
Get the tips here on the Scope Ideabook.

Differentiated Writing Prompts
For On-Level Readers

Think about the title “From Terror to Hope.” Explain how the title relates to both the article and the essay above. Use text evidence to support your ideas.

For Struggling Readers

In a well-organized paragraph, describe how the title “From Terror to Hope” relates to the article. Use text evidence to support your answer.

For Advanced Readers

Discuss the effects of the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. Consider the effects on individuals, New York City, the United States, and the world. Support your ideas with details from “From Terror to Hope” and “Growing Up Muslim in Post 9/11 America.”

Literature Connection: Other texts that explore resilience

“If” 
by Rudyard Kipling (poem)

A Long Walk to Water 
by Linda Sue Park (novel)

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood  
by Ibtisam Barakat (memoir)