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Teaching 9/11

Doug Edwards shares personal experience of the 2001 tragedy

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (September 11, 2018) – The students in Jamie Sawyer’s Honors US History class at TF South were not even born yet when 9/11 first happened. They may have grown up hearing about it or being aware of the annual references and observances, but they missed out on the confusion and drama and overwhelmingness of the most significant attack on America in American history.

That’s why Doug Edwards shares his story.

Today he’s an accountant in District 215, but 17 years ago he worked for Temenos Corporation, an accounting and banking software firm with an office in the World Trade Center in New York City. Edwards worked on the 84th floor of Tower 1. Sawyer had invited him to speak to her class on this 17th anniversary of 9/11.

“My mission today,” he explained to the class as he began his presentation, “is to get you to feel the magnitude of what happened,” making it more than simply “a paragraph in a history book.”

Students in Jamie Sawyer’s Honors US History class were not even born when 9/11 happened. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

A student looks through the handout Edwards provided. The packet included magazine covers of the event, facts about the World Trade Center, and copies of personal emails from coworkers who were at the office that day. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Edwards’ presentation starts with a number of personal photos and postcards showing the iconic Manhattan skyline, with the twin towers prominently featured. A fact sheet he distributed says, “More postcards of the World Trade Center were sent each year than any other building in the world.”

He uses comparisons to help kids grasp the immensity of Tower 1—the footprint was the size of four Wrigley Fields; the building housed restaurants, banks, subway stations, and stores; about 80,000 people worked in the towers.

And he shares the number of people who died in the four plane crashes that day: 2,996—2,763 at the World Trade Center, 189 at the Pentagon, and 44 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. As a point of comparison, he tells the students that 2,403 people died in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.


Doug Edwards worked at the World Trade Center in 2001. His weekly routine was to fly from New York to Miami every Wednesday, helping Temenos set up a new office in Florida.

In 2001, September 11 was a Tuesday. Edwards had changed his plans for that week, and he flew to Miami on that Tuesday instead of waiting until Wednesday. His daughter’s birthday was September 13, Thursday, and he wanted to be home to celebrate with her. Instead of going to his 84th-floor office on September 11, Doug Edwards was on a plane to Miami. It wasn’t until he landed safely there that he found out what had happened in New York.

That 9/11 trip saved his life, and the 9/11 experience changed his life. By sharing his story, he hopes to inspire others not to take anything for granted. Today he shared with classes at TF North as well as TF South. In the past he has also shared at District 215’s Center for Academics and Technology.

The final slide of Doug Edwards’ presentation shared this advice: “Keep everything in the proper perspective. Cherish each day and all of those around you. Don’t take even the little things for granted. Be aware of how everything and everyone can be taken away from you in an instant!” (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Doug Edwards’ presentation is always ready, and he continually adds new information to ensure that it remains relevant to new generations of Americans. “Don’t even take the little things for granted,” he said in closing. “Be aware of how everything and everyone can be taken away from you in an instant.”


Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.