About 9 years ago, a tragic accident occurred at my university, resulting in the deaths of twelve students. One of those students had been valedictorian of my high school. Though I never knew him personally, I knew his brother and others who were close to him. Watching the news coverage of the accident in my freshmen speech class was an experience as surreal and emotionally charged for my high school as was watching the second plane crash into the tower two years later in my statistics course. There's a memorial built near the accident site honoring the twelve students. I've visited it twice with each of my parents, once in the daytime and once at night. It's a beautifully designed memorial and a moving experience to read about the lives of the twelve and see their faces etched in stone. If you ever come visit, I'll take you there if you like.
This memorial is also near my parking lot, and today when I drove by I noticed an unusually large crowd entering the site and a school bus parked nearby. I suppose this was a school field trip which made me wonder: What's the educational purpose of this field trip? There are many valuable lessons to be learned from visiting this memorial: honoring those who have fallen, the transience of life, and the necessity to create something meaningful out of our lives. However, these all seem a bit too existential to fall within the normal realm of public school education. I do think I had some AP English courses that touched upon these themes, and perhaps the students were from an English course, and will soon be turning in compositions based on what they experienced. Or perhaps it was a history course, and this field trip was something akin to visiting the Vietnam War Memorial in DC. You know, I automatically assumed that the students were from a local school, but I never was able to see what the side of the school bus said. Perhaps they were actually from one of the high schools attended by one of the twelve and had driven in from somewhere near Houston or Austin. If this was the case, then perhaps no lesson was being contrived from this experience - they were simply paying homage to an alumnus. Whether they were directly connected to one of the twelve or not, I'm glad that many experience this memorial.