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In Towers Falling, a Novel Approach to Understanding 9/11

The commemoration of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have passed, but as we held a moment of silence for those who died that day, I wondered how much do students really know about what happened. To adults my age, it’s not history; it’s something we lived through and will never forget. And being in the Boston area, where two of the planes originated, many of us have connections to someone who was directly impacted by that day. But if you’re a freshman, you likely weren’t even alive; if you’re a senior, you may have still been in diapers. In both cases, you may have little understanding of the events beyond what’s been covered in history class.

That’s where media comes in, the countless documentaries, news specials, fictionalized reenactments and books hoping to shed some light on the story. Since I personally still have a hard time looking at pictures or video of the planes slamming into the World Trade Center, I naturally head toward books to help me not just understand, but to remember and, even after all this time, to grieve.

Unfortunately, for years, I couldn’t find any good books about what happened (and this is a librarian talking!). There were children’s books, inspired by a fireboat that helped rescue survivors in New York or a general push toward kindness and tolerance. There were adult books, dense tomes trying to follow the paper trail toward the attackers and their financial backers. There were books that recorded survivors’ testimonials, chronicled the hero dogs that helped dig through wreckage for body parts, or recounted the devastating effects on soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq during the seemingly endless War on Terror. There is a great novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safron Foer, about a boy trying to make sense of his father’s death in the attacks, but at 368 pages, it scares some students away.

Then I found Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Set in the boroughs of New York City ten years later, the book follows 10-year-old Deja in her struggle to understand why her father went “crazy” after Sept. 11, why he can’t hold a job and the family must live in a cramped homeless shelter. In school, her classes memorialize the attacks, but don’t really understand the ramifications, the effects still rippling through people’s lives. With the help of her friend Ben, whose father served in the military, and Sabeen, who has been bullied for being Muslim, Deja uncovers her family’s long-held secret.  She finally understands why her father is the way he is.

Although this book is geared for middle schoolers (grades 4-7 if you read the reviews), I bought two copies for the HHS Library. Sure, the main characters are younger, but I think many of us can relate to their confusion over something that adults feel was life-changing but is mere ancient history to them. When I read about Pearl Harbor or Vietnam, I feel the same sense of detachment that young people may feel about 9/11. This novel can help students explore and process their feelings about the attacks, and the memorial services that come every September. It’s done without being overly graphic or unnecessarily somber, and I would recommend that every HHS student devote the few hours it would take to read this short novel.


Which Club at HHS is the Best Fit for You?

This article has been updated to reflect changes for the 2017-2018 school year.

Coming back this fall as a senior, there are a lot of things I am proud to have been a part of during my time at high school. For all the freshmen this year and even the returning upperclassmen, my biggest advice would be to take part in sports teams, clubs, and school events when you have the opportunity. Not only will you have something to write on your college applications, but you will make some of the best friends you will ever have and have a lot of fun. 

Here are the clubs we offer:

Art Club: Advised by Mr. Crawford (room 108), the art club hangs out after school and finds creative ways to express themselves through art. Whether you like to doodle, sketch, draw, paint or look through the viewfinder of a camera, Art Club may be for you.

Aviation Club: This club was started by a few students who had an interest in planes and flight. Students work with Mr. Matt Plummer (main office) to use flight simulators and work on aviation-related projects.

Be Better Club: Advised by our Guidance Department,  this new club brings students together to bring out the best in themselves and each other. The focus is on doing good within the school and community. Stop by Guidance for more information.

Debate Team: This club strengthens students’ skills in public speaking and developing arguments. Students travel to different schools to take part in debates, where they are scored on several aspects including preparation and delivery. The topic is set by the league and researched in advance, but students have to be ready for whatever argument their opponents throw at them. See the main office if you’re interested.

img_1886Dirty Work: Started two years ago, this club meets after school weekly to use their green thumbs to help better our gardens and communities. The plot they’ve tended, located near the school courtyard, has grown wildflowers as well as tomatoes, zucchini and other vegetables. Advised by Mrs. Emerson (room 215) and Mrs. Curtis (room 208), Dirty Work members have high hopes and big plans for expanding their garden and community impact.

Diversity Club: If you couldn’t tell by the name, this club is for absolutely anyone. This club allows you to express and embrace your diversity with other students in the school, always being respectful of everyone and their differences. Advised by Ms. Wade (room 120), the club provides a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

DSC_1083Drama Club: The drama club puts on a few big performances each year, directed by Ms. Snavely. This fall, students are working on the musical Oklahoma, which will debut in November. If you’re not comfortable being in the spotlight, you can always help behind the scenes as a member of the crew.

Fashion Club: Founded by Class of 2015 grads Haley Martin and Bruna Dacosta, the Fashion Club allows for students to express themselves through fashion, while keeping up on trends and starting new fads within the school. This club, advised by Mrs. Gallagher (Guidance),  put on a breathtaking fashion show just a couple years ago, and all who attended and participated were truly struck by all of the hard work the fashion club had put in.

Friendship Connection:  Advised by Mrs. Gately (room 308), this club is absolutely life-changing, and allows you to make incredible friendships with special needs students. This club participates in Special Olympics and Unified sports, where special needs students and their peers compete side by side. 

Green Team: This club is advised by Ms. Egan (Guidance) and comes together after school each Wednesday to collect all of the recycled materials from the bins all over the school. If you are looking for community service hours or would like to make a difference on our planet, join this club and be an advocate for reducing, reusing, and recycling.

img_1891LitMag: The literary magazine allows you to express yourself through short stories, poetry, essays, artwork and photography. Advised by Ms. Fay (room 208), the magazine is accepting submissions for the first issue.

Math Team: Math team travels to different schools to participate in meets. The math team director is Dr. DeFranzo (room 219), who helps students practice for the meets which are based around all different math topics including geometry, algebra, trigonometry and calculus. If you have a knack for math, want to sharpen your  skills, or you just like eating pizza with a cool group of people, join this team.

News Club/The Indian: If you’re reading this, you know that the News Club publishes all of its articles on its very own website, www.hhsindian.com. The Indian covers a wide range of topics, from entertainment to sports to politics. Anyone is allowed to submit articles, and there are deadlines every week for writers to follow. Meetings are held in the library every Tuesday. Advised by Mrs. McHugh (library), club members have also taken field trips to learn more about journalism.

blood1Red Cross Club: A few times a year, there is a blood drive that takes place here at our school and allows all who are eligible to give blood. This club organizes and staffs the blood drives and raises money for the Red Cross efforts in the community. It is advised by Mrs. Curley (room 110) and Mrs. Davis (Nurse’s office).

Robotics Club: This club, advised by Ms. Borgeson (room 116), focuses on learning about robots and technology. This club gets to play with our school’s very own robot, Nao, and participate at competitions.

SADD: SADD stands for “Students Against Destructive Decisions” and is a club that works with Mrs. Rapalje (Guidance) to stray from drugs, alcohol, and destructive decisions as a whole. One event the club has done in the past has been a Day of Silence, in which members vow not to speak the entire day to bring awareness to bullying faced by LGBTQ students.

Student Council: Student Council is for anyone and everyone. This club, directed by Mr. Hegarty and Mr. Centorino (room 308), is full of endless opportunities, whether you’re looking to do community service, organize school events, or just be a part of something in general. Elections for class officer and representative positions are held each spring, and students who do not get elected are recommended to attend meetings as honorary representatives.

Yearbook: Although yearbooks are mainly purchased by seniors, the staff includes all of the grades and recaps the entire school year with pictures and captions. Mrs. Coates (room 220) leads the club throughout the year to work on the keepsake that graduates will look back on for years to come.