[2015] Eugenie Kim: With Their Eyes

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by stilesjm
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Language Arts

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[2015] Eugenie Kim: With Their Eyes

Interviewing many people about the same event can yield a variety of responses, and that’s how you could describe With Their Eyes: September 11th, the View from a High School at Ground Zero. It’s an honest account of September 11, 2001, told from the viewpoint of Stuyvesant High School students, faculty, and staff who were just blocks from the World Trade Center that morning. The interviews were transcribed, edited, and eventually performed as poem-monologues. The honesty of the comments is amazing. One student describes nearly throwing a camera at a tourist who wanted a picture taken with the wreckage as a backdrop (Thoms 140). Another student says he slept a lot so he didn’t have to think about it (Thoms 42). However, the monologues are sometimes hard to follow because they are faithful to the original interview transcripts. Um, like, and you know appear frequently, and sentences are often fragmented as people search for words or become overwhelmed with emotions. The poem-monologue format feels intimate and the conversational tone makes the reader feel as if the words are being spoken right now. This makes the reader feel a strong connection to the stories. This non-traditional form of literature can be a great way to expose students to narrative poetry as well as theatrical monologues. It can also be a springboard for discussing varying points of view. It will make you want to cry, but it will also make you proud to be an American. You won’t regret reading it.

With Their Eyes: September 11th, the View from a High School at Ground Zero is a non-traditional literary text edited by Annie Thomas. The individual poem-monologues are from interviews with Stuyvesant High School students, faculty members, and staff after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Stuyvesant is just four blocks from the World Trade Center, so many people in Stuyvesant saw the planes hit the towers. The whole school was evacuated and closed. Students were temporarily relocated to Brooklyn Technical High School, and returned to Stuyvesant in October.An English teacher came up with the idea to have ten students conduct numerous interviews, transcribe and edit them, and then perform them on stage, with each student playing multiple roles. The various pieces were later made into a book.Many monologues describe the reactions of people after the planes hit. Some students laughed, thinking it was no big deal. Others panicked and tried to call parents. Teachers felt fear and the pressure to appear calm in front of students.During the days and weeks after 9/11, students felt sadness, anger, and disbelief. Many also talked about trying to shut out the memories. School administrators talked about the outpouring of well wishes from people around the globe. One girl volunteered for the Red Cross at Stuyvesant, which was briefly used as a triage center. The last monologue depicts how Stuyvesant’s American flag ended up on the ruins of the World Trade Center, put there by a patriotic fireman.

With Their Eyesedited by Annie Thoms

Annie Thoms graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1993. She attended Williams College and then went on to receive her MA in English Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. She became an English teacher and theater advisor at Stuyvesant in 2000. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters, Eleanor and Isabel.

About the Author:

shock, fear, denial, panic, sorrow, anger sympathy, patriotism,courage, love


Lesson Plans:1. structure - how is it unique?2. point of view3. lessons learned4. what makes a hero?

Teacher's Viewpoint

Works Cited

"Annie Thoms." Epic Reads. HarperCollins Publisher, 2015. Web. 6 Aug. 2015.Thoms, Annie. With Their Eyes: September 11th, the View from a High School at Ground Zero. New York: HarperTempest, 2002. Print.Naudet brothers. "WTC1 North Tower Plane Impact on 9/11 - Naudet" Online video clip. YouTube. Google, 7 May, 2007. Web. 8 Aug. 2015.

9/11 edition of The Spectator, the Stuyvesant High School newspaper.


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