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Mt. Vernon history teacher tells students what he lived through on 9/11

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Posted at 1:09 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 13:09:02-04

FORTVILLE — Eric Harnish is a history teacher today, but he was a third grader 20 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001. It's one of the few lessons he teaches that he actually lived through.

Harnish said he remembers that day well.

"It just seemed like teachers were kind of out of sync that day in terms of something else on their mind, and it wasn't until I got home after school that I first saw the actual footage of planes hitting the towers and things like that," Harnish said. "But it's a day I remember very well. Probably out of my childhood, one that sticks out quite a bit."

Now a seventh grade history teacher at Mt. Vernon Middle School, Harnish said 9/11 is one of the few lessons he teaches that he can pass along first-hand knowledge about.

"Most of what we cover with ancient Egypt, ancient China, you can't do that," Harnish said. "I mean, I've been to China, but that's as close as I get. So the fact I can kind of tell them how it affected me, how it affected my family, how it affected the community as a whole is really what separates it."

He said he likes to use home videos from survivors and people who were there when it happened, however he said it can be tough to find a good balance.

"There's so much available in terms of survivor interviews and new footage and things like that," Harnish said. "The only difficulty is trying to find what's appropriate for the age group, so seventh grade year, 12, 13 years old on average, and you don't want to show too much that's traumatizing, but the same time, you don't want to give too little and make it seem like it wasn't as big of a deal as it was."

He said the videos he does show, he shows with no context so the students can experience what so many of us did 20 years ago.

"They see videos of people almost in hysterics, you know, not really knowing what to say and just you see the facial expressions on people, and I think really that helps students understand it you know quite significantly better," Harnish said.