American Anxiety After 9/11

  • Grades 6 to 8
  • Lesson Duration: One Class Period
  • Theme: Repercussions of 9/11

Essential Question: How did 9/11 affect Americans’ sense of safety?

Learning Goals

Students will reflect on the anxiety felt in the aftermath the 9/11 attacks.

Students will consider how the concept of safety has changed in the years since 9/11.

Students will formulate an answer to the essential question supported by evidence.



Psyche: This word means the human soul, mind, or spirit.

The New Yorker magazine: This weekly publication provides reporting and commentary on politics, foreign affairs, business, technology, popular culture, and the arts, along with humor, fiction, poetry, and cartoons.

Stuyvesant High School: This high school is located a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.

New Yorker

“Fears of July,” 2002, Art Spiegelman, Courtesy of The New Yorker © Condé Nast


1.  Display or distribute copies of The New Yorker cover titled, “Fears of July.” Click on the image to use the pinch and zoom feature for closer viewing. Do not reveal the title to students.

2.  Ask students to look at the cover individually or in small groups for one minute and write down everything they notice on a sheet of paper. 

3.  After one minute, lead a guided inquiry by asking the following questions:

  • Who do you see on this cover? How would you describe them?
  • What is happening in this image?
  • Where does this take place? How can you tell?
  • When was this issue published? What is the significance of the date?

4.  Recap the student responses, highlighting the juxtaposition between the desire to celebrate the Fourth of July—a return to normalcy—with the fear of another terrorist attack in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

5.  Share the title of the cover, “Fears of July,” by Art Spiegelman. Why do you think he gave it that title? What point do you think the artist is trying to articulate through this cover? 

6.  Watch the clip below of Lila Nordstrom, a former student at Stuyvesant High School, who discusses some of the ways witnessing the 9/11 attacks impacted her.

Video: Lila Nordstrom, a former Stuyvesant High School student, discusses 9/11

Lila Nordstrom

7.  Ask students to summarize Lila’s experience. Tell students that many Americans dealt with anxiety and fear after 9/11. Share the following excerpt from the May 14, 2014, Pew Research Center article “More than a decade later, 9/11 attacks continue to resonate with Americans”:

The 9/11 attacks imprinted themselves on Americans’ psyches in a way few other events in living memory have. Beyond the human toll...the attacks struck deeply at Americans’ sense of security. In the 2011 poll, 75% of people reported that they’d been emotionally affected “a great deal” by 9/11, compared with 67% a year after the attacks; 61% said life in America had changed “in a major way” since the attacks, up from half who said that in 2002… In November 2013, the most recent time we asked this question, 34% said terrorists’ ability to launch a major attack was now greater than it had been prior to 9/11, compared with 29% who said less and 36% who said it was about the same.

8.  Conclude by holding a class discussion focused on the following questions: Do you think this cover is still relevant today? How does it reflect the reality of living in a post-9/11 world? How has the idea of “safety” changed in the years since 9/11?