Our home on the range finishing level 4 (eighth grade) history afghanistan and september 11th gas pump emoji

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First of all, I decided it was time to address 9/11 with First Son. My children know very little of this tragedy because I happened to be living in New York City and working just a block south of the World Trade towers when the attacks occurred. It was a devastating and terrifying time, but eventually they need to know what happened that day and that I was as close to it as I was. (Lest you think more of me than is true; I happened to be on a train to Baltimore that morning, a train I almost missed but didn’t. I was stuck in Maryland most of the day and only made it back to New York around midnight, but I was always safe. And everyone from my office was safe.)

Langley clearly explains the events of the day, the movements of the terrorists and the airplanes. He explains the rise of fundamentalism in some Muslims and how the conflict in Afghanistan was directly linked to the rise of terrorism against the Western world and specifically America. Though written before Osama bin Laden was found, he describes the retaliation of America and how some countries viewed them as well as the hunt for the primary terrorist. He also includes a chapter on how America was changed by September 11th.

The missile strikes [in Sudan and northeast Afghanistan in August 1998] were intended to reassure Americans and send a stark warning to the terrorists. However, for many Muslims they had the opposite effect, turning Osama bin Laden into an Islamic fundamentalist hero who had stood up to the United States. Few Muslims had heard of him before, but now many saw him as a major figure. What is more, the strikes convinced many people that the U.S. government really was hostile to Islam.

Langley never condones the terrorists’ actions, but he does leave open the possibility that the actions of the U.S. before and after the attacks may not have been right (either morally or perhaps in light of international relations). For example, he mentions the prison camp of Guantanamo.

As the base was not located on U.S. soil, it was unclear whether prisoners there had legal rights under the U.S. Constitution. They could be kept there indefinitely without a trial. The conditions at Guantanamo Bay soon drew protests from humanitarian groups all over the world.

The last book First Son read is The Arrival by Shaun Tan. This is a wordless graphic novel showing a husband and father leaving his wife and daughter behind in a dangerous world to seek a new home for them. This new land is nothing like any culture we know and is as startling and disorienting for the reader as for the immigrant. Gradually, he learns to navigate the new world and is able bring his family to safety. The end of the book connects beautifully with another new beginning.

I don’t intend to ask for a narration of the book or to explicitly connect it to any of our studies, but I wanted to end with something more hopeful and uplifting than the earlier books in this six-week study. First Son may consider immigrants from war-torn lands more compassionately because of it or he might just appreciate its quality for its own sake.