Tulsa Tech masonry students learn 9/11 history, construct tribute wall
Tulsa Tech masonry instructor Chauncey Kila instills a sense of purpose and teamwork in students
By Andrea Eger
Tulsa Tech masonry instructor Chauncey Kila has begun questioning when his students’ annual Sept. 11 memorial will become “just a project.”
But the students who just laid the bricks and blocks that compose the 13th such memorial say the significance helps them understand the post-9/11 world in which they’ve grown up.
“Learning about this helps us to really know why wars are going on and why we went to Iraq; to figure out why things are happening — why there is a memorial and the lights in New York,” said 17-year-old Tyler Robinson, a senior at Broken Arrow High School. “I think it’s also good to remember the people who died.”
Kila said the whole endeavor began quite by accident.
In 2003, he was a first-time teacher when he asked his students to apply what they were only beginning to learn by building an American flag out of bricks. It was around this time of year, so when another teacher snapped a photo to share with other Tulsa Tech campuses, she captioned the photo, “a salute to the heroes of 9/11.”
“People loved it and we started getting all of these emails,” Kila said. “Because of that response, the students thought it was really cool, so I just decided to make it a project for them the next year.”
As the years have worn on, Kila’s class roster has transitioned from people with memories of Sept. 11, 2001, cemented in their own minds to today, when none are old enough to recall it for themselves.
“I was too young — I was 7 when it happened,” said Khyran Lawson, a 2013 graduate of Memorial High School. “We’ve always remembered it at school.”
Robinson, whose morning classes at Broken Arrow High included lessons and videos about this still-recent history, said his father speaks of his own memories of that day from time to time.
Jeremy Ivey, a 17-year-old senior at Temple Christian School, said he has seen video of the Twin Towers collapsing “and all of the dust it caused,” but no one speaks of it in his circle.
To him, it’s important to know what happened that day “so we know there’s people out there, terrorists, who do this kind of stuff.”
Because of that natural progression over time, Kila now introduces the memorial project with a history lesson. Then his students collaborate to design and construct something new and different.
Since that first simple brick flag, the Tulsa Tech memorials have grown more elaborate. This year’s isn’t just a wall at all.
It’s a fountain inspired by the new 9/11 memorial in New York City, with a horizontal sheet of water spilling out of a black void. Below, the water lands in a Pentagon-shaped shallow pool with the American flag painted in the bottom. Instead of 50 stars, a white number “93” is painted atop the blue to honor Flight 93, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
And on both sides of the memorial fountain, two cinder block towers — shaped like those that fell at the World Trade Center — stand guard. Inside them, computer monitors flash images from 9/11 and all of the Tulsa Tech memorials built since 2003.
“Some of these students have never picked a trowel up, let alone laid a brick or stone,” Kila said. “Besides the history, they learn teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking, because there are no blueprints.”
About the Author
Andrea Eger is a Staff Writer for Tulsa World.
This article was originally published in Tulsa World. This content has been republished with the permission of the publisher.