By Raphaela Gold ‘21
Every year, Heschel attempts to find an engaging and meaningful way to teach students about the tragedy of 9/11 and make them feel connected to the day. At this point, almost all of the student body was born after 9/11 and have no memories of the day, making this task a bit more difficult. To help students better understand the importance of commemorating 9/11, Heschel welcomed Jay Winuk to the Roanna Shorofsky Theatre on September 9 of this year. Winuk discussed his personal connection to 9/11 and educated students about his involvement in turning the day into a National Day of Service. On September 11, 2001, Winuk’s brother Glenn J. Winuk, an attorney and volunteer firefighter, was killed during his attempts to save people at the World Trade Center. Inspired by his brother’s devotion to community service, Winuk became a primary force behind the establishment of the anniversary of 9/11 as a federally designated “National Day of Service and Remembrance”. He is now a nationally recognized inspirational speaker and award-winning public relations executive.
Winuk spoke about the myriad challenges he faced in establishing 9/11 as a national day of service. He also shared his vision of how education around 9/11 must change in the coming years, given that our student body had not yet been born in 2001. The student body had mixed reactions, generally finding it very interesting but in some cases thinking that the interview portion continued for too long. “It was a bit long, but very informative and meaningful. It was really interesting to hear about someone with a personal connection to 9/11 and how he was able to turn that loss into something really incredible,” commented eleventh grader Tova Segal. Junior Sydney Butler, on the other hand, was a bit more skeptical, stating, “I felt like we should have gotten a more hands on experience since the Hesed day was coming up so soon and it felt a bit pointless to just sit in a room and talk about it.” Freshman Noam Medjuck-Bruckner agreed that it was a “cool experience,” but added, “It went on for a bit too long and students should have had more time to ask their own questions.”
As the person who had the honor of interviewing Winuk in front of the school, I found it to be a very emotional and powerful experience, and his words stuck with me long after the program ended. Perhaps if the school offers more time for questions from the audience in the future, hosting speakers like Winuk will feel more interactive for students and leave them feeling more satisfied.