Teaching Beowulf on September 11 might seem a bit disconnected but it was next on the syllabus. I have to say my class immediately made connections: Grendel represents terrorism and Beowulf represents our guys in uniform. They have brothers and sister and fiances in uniform.
We discussed the 500 years it took from the historic acts recorded in the poem and the written manuscript we have left today versus the immediate broadcast of the tragedies in NY, DC & PA. I asked them if they had 9/11 overkill in all of their classses? No, no, they said. Even by the last block of the day, they still wanted to tell their “where I was when stories.”
But the connection I found most perceptive was the one made by the student who asked me where I was when JFK was shot. This was their Pearl Harbor; their Nov. 22, 1963. While I was a bit weary of the coverage and the re-living of the tragedy, I saw that a new generation has a collected stake in a national moment that they have claimed as their defining moment.