Lesson Plan

9/11 Heroes: Surviving the Biggest Attack on U.S. Soil


This 12-minute video explores the September 11 terrorist attacks, which occurred 20 years ago, before any of today’s K-12 students were born. How can we examine the events of that day and the aftermath as historians would? This activity asks students to examine primary sources, pose questions for investigation and gather additional narratives from this time period.


Students will:

  • Examine the 9/11 attacks from multiple perspectives using a variety of primary sources.
  • Determine the advantages and disadvantages of relying on primary sources in conducting historical research.
  • Conduct an interview and create their own primary source material related to the 9/11 attacks.
  • Social Studies
  • Civics & Government
  • U.S. History
  • Terrorism
  • September 11th
  • 9/11
  • U.S. History
  • The Modern Era (1980-Present)
  • AP U.S. History
For Teachers

Essential Questions

  • What are primary sources and how do they contribute to one’s understanding of historical events?
  • What can the experiences of first responders and others who witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks tell us about the event from an historical perspective?
  • How can primary source materials like narratives, video, audio, and artifacts contribute to our understanding of the 9/11 attacks and aftermath?

Additional Resources

Transcript for "9/11 Heroes: Surviving the Biggest Attack on U.S. Soil"Retro Report 
Interviewing TechniquesCritical Thinking Consortium 
How to Help Students Develop Interviewing SkillsEdutopia 
Tips for Effective InterviewsStorycorps 
How to Conduct a Journalistic InterviewScholastic 

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

Detect possible limitations in various kinds of historical evidence and differing secondary interpretations.

Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.

Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to pursue further inquiry and investigate additional sources.

Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge.

Explain points of agreement and disagreement experts have about interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question.

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com