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Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11- Educator and Parent Guide

Educators and Parents: This Educator and Parent Guide is provided for teachers and parents to use as a catalyst for discussion and learning if they choose to watch this program with their students. CNN provides Educator and Parent Guides for all of its "In America" programming.

(CNN Student News) -- Watch or record "Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11" at 10 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 11. By recording the documentary, you agree that you will use the program for educational viewing purposes for a one-year period only. No other rights of any kind or nature whatsoever are granted, including, without limitation, any rights to sell, publish, distribute, post online or distribute in any other medium or forum, or use for any commercial or promotional purpose.

Documentary Description: "Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11" profiles the sometimes overlooked female rescue workers who raced to the Twin Towers in the wake of the attack. Anchor and special correspondent Soledad O'Brien looks at the work of these rescue workers over the decade following their life-altering experiences. Among the stories of these heroic women of New York's Ground Zero is an African-American firefighter whose company lost seven of the 343 firefighters who died that day. She is pushing to recruit more women to this dangerous job, even as the number of female firefighters has dropped to less than one percent of the NYFD. O'Brien also speaks with the family of a decorated police officer and mother who was photographed rescuing survivors just moments before the collapse of the towers. O'Brien reports the present-day struggles of these unsung heroines and hears about their determination to be prepared for the next attack -- and to restore hope.

Recommended grades: 9-12

Subject Areas: Character education, Civics/Government, U.S. History

Before-Viewing Discussion Questions: Use these questions to promote discussion before viewing the program.

1. What do you know or recall about the 9/11 attacks? How do you think the tenth anniversary of these attacks will be commemorated? How do you plan to observe the tenth anniversary of these attacks?

2. Why do you think that it might be important to hear from witnesses, survivors and rescue workers of the 9/11 attacks?

3. What are some examples of first responders? What skills and abilities do you think might be beneficial for a first responder? Do you think that you would want a career in this field? Why or why not?

4. What is your definition of a hero? In your opinion, what are some qualities that all heroes might share?

Post-Viewing Discussion Questions: Use these questions to facilitate discussion and critical thinking after watching "Beyond Bravery."

1. Who are the women profiled in the documentary? Why do you think that these women were chosen for this program? Why do you think that the producers decided to focus on female first responders for this documentary?

2. What does Theresa Tobin say about her experiences at the World Trade Center on 9/11? Why do you think that she says that she has "not one regret" about being a 9/11 first responder?

3. What does Tobin say about the recognition of females who were first responders at 9/11? Why do you think that she feels this way?

4. Why did Brenda Berkman sue the New York Fire Department (NYFD) in 1979? What was the outcome of that lawsuit? What arguments do you think that both sides might have presented in court?

5. What reason does firefighter Regina Wilson give for why females make up less than 1% of the NYFD? What is your reaction to her opinion? Why do you think that there are fewer female firefighters in New York City now than there were ten years ago, while other rescue services have seen an increase in female personnel?

6. As seen in the documentary, how does Wilson try to encourage other females to join the NYFD? Do you think that first responder units should try to encourage more women to join their professions? Explain.

7. What was Berkman's role at Ground Zero on the day of the 9/11 attacks? What does she say about that experience?

8. What controversy erupted over recognizing the dead at the 9/11 memorial? How was it resolved? What does Berkman say about this resolution? What is your opinion?

9. What happened to Bonnie Giebfried on the day of the 9/11 attacks? What medical issues does Giebfried attribute to the events of 9/11? According to Giebfried, how have these medical issues affected her life?

10. Where was Carey Policastro during the 9/11 attacks? When did she arrive at Ground Zero? What does she say now about her experiences at Ground Zero?

11. According to the program: How have training programs for emergency personnel changed since 9/11? What do Policastro and Rick Dickson say about the likelihood of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil? What is your reaction to their statements? In your opinion, how might the type of training that Policastro and Dickson conduct affect the likelihood and severity of a future terrorist attack, if at all?

12. What happened to Moira Smith at Ground Zero on 9/11? As seen in the video, what are some ways that her family and others have honored Smith's memory? Why do you think that it might be important for people to honor lost loved ones who tried to help others on that day?

13. What lessons do you think may have been learned by local governments and emergency personnel as a result of 9/11?

14. What are some ways that the featured rescue workers cope with their experiences from 9/11? Do you think that their coping process might be different from that of 9/11 survivors who weren't first responders? Why or why not?

15. Who do you think might be empowered by the stories featured in "Beyond Bravery"? How might these stories empower and inspire them?

Media Literacy Question

What words and images of 9/11, both from this documentary and others, do you think will stay with you? Why do you think that these words and images are memorable?

Learning Activities

Career Exploration: First Responders

Using the documentary as a guide, have the class generate a list of positions held by first responders. Then have each student select one position from the list to research using the Internet or other resources. Use the following questions to guide the students' investigations:

a) What are the skills and abilities needed to obtain a job in this field?

b) Where could one receive training or a degree for this position?

c) How much does it cost to receive this training?

d) What the prospects are for obtaining a job in this field? Is there a shortage or oversupply in your region?

e) What are the working conditions for this job?

f) What are the personal risks and rewards of this job?

Have each student design a web site that details the information found through his or her research.

While the websites are being developed, create a home page that acts as a table of contents that links to each student's page. When it is complete, have students click on the links on the homepage to examine at least three other student-generated web pages. Direct students to deliver constructive feedback on each others' pages. Allow students to make changes to their pages based on this feedback.

Afterwards, guide a group discussion on these occupations. Ask students: What is the value of these jobs to the community? What should be done, if anything, to encourage people who are under-represented in these fields to seek out these positions? Do any of these fields interest you? Why or why not?

Extension: Have students interview first responders. Direct students to ask questions that would provide additional information for their websites.

Heroes of 9/11

Generate a class discussion about the meaning of the word "hero".

Ask students:

• What attributes and personal qualities are common to individuals that we consider heroes?

• In your opinion, how does the term "hero" apply to the first responders on 9/11?

• What should be done to keep the memory of these heroes alive for future generations?

Challenge groups of students to come up with ideas for commemorating the heroes of 9/11 and share these with the class. Have the class vote for one idea that could be implemented in your school or community. As a class, present that idea to local school or government officials to mark the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.

Related Resources

  • Rebuilding, remembering at ground zero
  • 9/11 Memorial
  • Tribute WTC Visitor Center
  • Women at Ground Zero
  • Curriculum Connections

    Social Studies

    National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: The Themes of Social Studies


    Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ways human beings view themselves in and over time.


    Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of people, places, and environments.


    Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions.


    Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people create, interact with, and change structures of power, authority, and governance.

    The National Curriculum Standards for the Social Studies are produced by the National Council for the Social Studies.