Champlin, Minn. — Teacher Ann Ertl says there was no getting around having a discussion about the 9/11 attacks. Students still want to talk about it. Her intermediate English as a Second Language class has been writing in journals all week about the anniversary. Few of these Champlin Park High School students were living in the United States two years ago. Still, the memories of that day remain clear. Natalyia Semenovych is a foreign exchange student from Ukraine.
"I came from school, and when my parents told me I was very shocked," Semenovych said. "I didn't believe for the first, then all day I had an opportunity to watch it on TV. At that time we realized that it can happen in every country and in Ukraine too."
The symbolism of the terrorist targets was not lost on the students. Christian Bryant, a recent immigrant from Liberia, says the destruction of the World Trade Center, in particular, had a big impact in many countries.
"It's something that affected the whole entire world," Bryant said. "You see, it's not something that's only in America, because the trade center that was damaged was in America. But it was something that affected the whole entire world. Other nationalities were in the building."
Irene James is another recent immigrant from Liberia. She's also no stranger to war. But James says the loss of life and devastation two years ago was especially frightening.
"I was so sad about that," James said. "There was a war in our country Liberia, and I felt that when there is a war in America there will be no safe place in the whole world."
But a sense of security is gradually returning for many students. Abhishek Parikh, a native of India, has confidence in his new country and its leaders. He doesn't think an attack of a similar scale could soon be repeated in the U.S.
"Now we're prepared, and we're ready when ever terrorists attack," Parikh said. "When ever like we have a lot of intellegence around the world, they can get information like when there's going to be a terrorist attack, and everything. So, I think we're prepared than last time it happened."
Students' views of the world have changed. Some admit being more nervous in airplanes or tall buildings. They generally support tighter security measures. Surprisingly, these recent immigrants have little concern about the tightening of U.S. immigration policies. Parikh says it' an appropriate precaution to look closely at all immigrants.
"I think it's very helpful, because we need to stop them," Parikh said. "Those are like how terrorists came to the United States. I mean they were the immigrants too and how they came, so we have to be tough."
Parikh and his classmates want to see an end to terrorism. But they have doubts about the success of efforts to eliminate the threat. Abdinasir Ali of Somalia has seen war and terrorism all his life.
"I don't think that terror is something people can stop," Ali said. "It keeps getting worse and worse and it keeps getting stronger. I think the only way to deal with terrorists is by another way, not war. War is not the answer."
Teacher Ann Ertl says her ESL students' viewpoints probably contrast sharply with those heard in typical classrooms. She says people who've experienced wars and refugee camps see the world differently.
"The violence part of it is not necessarily as striking to them as it is to me," Ertl said. "And no matter how much I have talked to them and emphasized pieces about the people who were on the plane, and the people who were in the buildings, and the firefighters, it just doesn't have the emotional impact that it had on me, and that I would expect it to have on them. It doesn't."
Tomorrow, Ertl's students return to the business of improving their English skills, when they work on a poetry project.