"What did 9/11 mean to you on that day and what does it mean to you ten years after?"
Richard Webb, the chair of 's social studies department posed this question to his advanced placement United States history students.
Fifty juniors working in teams are designing their own vision of a New Canaan 9/11 memorial and will submit their proposals by June 20. One design will be constructed next year at the high school.
"It's the ten year anniversary and these kids were seven years old when Sept. 11 happened," Webb told About Town. "It's a way to connect to a part in history that's going to influence the rest of their lives."
The students researched past national memorials of American Wars — from the abstract Vietnam memorial to the realistic sculptural memorials of World War II and Korea.
Using Google Sketch and Google Earth, they generated architectural renditions of their ideas and placed them at a site in the town of New Canaan that reflects their memorial's purpose and narrative.
"Few tasks are more painful than designing a memorial. How can we best honor those fallen?" Webb asked while encouraging his students to design something that has personal and emotional meaning "for you, if not your audience."
Megan Paul was teamed with Sophie Ponchak.
"The goal for our design is to capture the essence of the tragedy and reflect it in the memorial in a positive way that promotes national unity," Paul said.
"I'm trying to incorporate different aspects of previous war memorials into the 9/11 memorial while individualizing it for the town of New Canaan and what their experiences were," Michael DeMattia explained.
John Santoro thought it would be "a good idea to incorporate the names of the victims and their families in the context of New Canaan and be relevant to the town."
Jackson Busch added, "We wanted to capture the tragedy of the day while providing a message that is positive and uplifting."
"What's at the site of 9/11 now?" Webb asked. "The fact that nothing is there may say something about ourselves and our uncertainty about the war on terror."
The students' memorial design project is part of a course of study leading up to NCHS's "September 11, 2011 Ten Years After" symposium which will be held next Sept. 27.
Two of the event's scheduled four speakers are from New Canaan.
Wendy Hilboldt, a parent, teacher and member of the immediately drove to Ground Zero and watched many of her first responder "brothers and sisters" perish.
Author Bonnie McEneaney's husband Eamon McEneaney, a father of four children, never came home.
"On 9/11, all I could think about was the enormity of the tragedy; how the events of that day shattered the lives of so many families and changed the way we view our national security," McEneaney said.
"Today, however, what I reflect on the most is the resilience of the human spirit," said McEneaney who serves on the board of .
The students, armed with unlimited food for thought, have been challenged to create something extraordinary.
"It's all about your imagination," Webb told them."Think about it. Dream about it."