Historians and firefighters compare the impacts of 9/11 and COVID-19

NOW: Historians and firefighters compare the impacts of 9/11 and COVID-19


ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - September 11, 2001, has long been touted as a day Americans will never forget. Each anniversary those who paid the ultimate sacrifice that day are honored and memorialized typically with in-person community events locally, but the 19th anniversary on Friday was honored a bit differently thanks to the Coronavirus. Clay, South Bend and Mishawaka Fire Departments all joined together for a virtual commemoration ceremony. Teachers discussed the day with their students through video calls, and Congress honored the day while standing a safe six feet apart from one and other. History experts in Michiana said the pandemic's impact is comparable to that of the September 11th Terrorist attacks.

"That's why we study history because things are always changing," said Elkhart West Middle School U.S. History Teacher Linda Fine. "We're always trying to figure out how can we do something better, do something different in our time of need because that's what I would consider both of these. 9/11 was in a time of need and the pandemic is in a time of need."

Fine said the biggest difference between the Coronavirus pandemic and 9/11 when it came to teaching her students was where the impact hit most.

"For my students in Elkhart, 9/11 was a little removed for them," Fine said. "It was a catastrophe for our nation, and it was the first time we had been attacked like that on our soil since Pearl Harbor. So, we had those conversations with them, but it was so far removed for them because they were in Indiana. They didn't know anyone in New York or D.C., but today, this pandemic is hitting everybody."

Firefighters like Clay Fire Marshal Dave Cherrone say 9/11 will always be the day where all gave some and some gave all, but he said the lasting impact of the attacks is comparable to the impacts the Coronavirus has left.

"Probably the only way they compare is they both altered the way we do things forever," Cherrone said.

IU South Bend History Professor Jonathan Nashel said students' responses to September 11th inspired him to start a class at the university entirely on the 9/11 attacks and what led up to them and what resulted from them. He said the difference between the pandemic and the 9/11 terrorist attacks is that the pandemic might impact how other parts of history are studied in the future.

"Trust me," Nashel said. "When the next editions (of history text books) come out, they're going to beef (the 1918 influenza outbreak) up tremendously. There's going to be a whole lot more about the 1918 pandemic, and there will be a lot on the 2020 pandemic, on COVID-19."

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