Nine, Ten: A Septermber 11 Story
by Nora Raleigh Baskin
published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
June 28, 2016
"Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?"
Asks the country singer, Alan Jackson, in his September 11th tribute song.
I was teaching my 2nd grade class. It was my second year of teaching second grade, my 6th year teaching overall. I was standing at the front of my class at the overhead projector going over our DOL (Daily Oral Language for you young teachers, I think I just aged myself!). Our union president came in and asked me to step outside my classroom. She told both me and my colleague next door. I don't remember her exact words. I remember her telling us a brief run down of what had happened thus far. I remember we were not to tell our students, there was no need to panic young students seeing as we were in an elementary building. I remember turning my TV on in my classroom when the students had gone to specials to watch the horrific event unfold. I ate lunch in our conference room and that's when I saw the towers fall. While Chicago is far away from Ground Zero, this touched all Americans in a profound way. I remember being upset, hurt, confused, and my heart was so upset for the people who lost someone.
It's hard to believe that middle grade readers today were not born on September 11, 2001. This date lies in history for these readers. In class, students learn about the events of September 11, 2001. They learn the facts, but not the emotions. They know what happened after the event, but not what happened before. What it was like to walk to the airline gate to meet your friends and family. They don't remember the blue skies and perfect temperature of that day. When the words "hijacker, terrorists, Ground Zero" were not in our vocabulary. This book helps fill in some of those holes. The majority of Nine, Ten is told in the days leading up to 9.11. Four characters help tell the story. One lives in California and her mom is traveling for work. She works for Cantor Fitzgerald. While that name means something to us who remember the attack, this is a new name for most readers. Another character lives in Ohio. She is a practicing Muslim and wears a hijib around her head. A third character lives in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the location of where Flight 93 crash landed. The final character lives in New York City, very close to Ground Zero. In the days leading up to the attack, he befriends a firefighter who teaches him what a "first responder" does.
We get to know these four characters and see what their lives are like before the morning of September 11th. The events of the day are told briefly, yet discusses some of the horrific parts of the day without going into major detail. People running away from the towers, covered from head to toe in white ash. The towers coming down, people jumping. The number of men, women, children who lost their lives. These are the facts, yet Baskin does a great job of weaving them into the narrative so they are relayed, but not dwelt upon.
The book ends by flash forwarding to the one year anniversary. We see how lives have changed. How our nation changed from being accepting to questioning. From welcoming to being guarded.
While to me, 2011 does not feel like historical fiction. But to students, who were not alive, it is history. This book will be important to readers because it draws them into that time and helps them understand how the events of this day changed the course of our nation's history, but also how it changed lives of children all around our nation.
This will be an important book to have in your school library or classroom, to read together and discuss. Look for it at your local bookstore or library on June 28th.