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New podcast from Uni High and Illinois Public Media explores impact of 9/11 on central Illinois

a collection of polaroids from each episode and text says 800 Miles from Ground Zero: 9/11's Impact on Central Illinois

Illinois Public Media has combined forces with University Laboratory High School to create “800 Miles from Ground Zero: 9/11's Impact on Central Illinois,” a new four-part podcast exploring how 9/11 impacted local communities. The first episode, titled 7:46 CST, dropped today (September 11), and is available wherever you get your podcasts.

Kimberlie Kranich, director of community content and engagement at Illinois Public Media, advised student producer Aditi Adve and Uni High teacher Melissa Schoeplein on how to turn the students’ oral histories into a podcast series.

"Uni High students and their social studies teacher, Melissa Schoeplein, have done the difficult work of gathering stories from residents of central Illinois who experienced 9/11 directly and have turned them into a podcast series that is a compelling listening experience and thought-provoking on so many levels,” said Kranich. “It has been an honor working with them."

Each episode focuses on a different aspect of American life post-9/11, and features perspectives from government officials, members of the local Muslim community, university experts, veterans, and activists. The podcast hopes to uncover how this historic day continues to impact Illinoisians, 800 miles from ground zero.

“I was 24 when 9/11 happened,” said Schoeplein, a Uni High 8th-grade social studies teacher and the project director. “The aftermath of this day has spanned my entire adult life, but, for my students, as each year passes, it seems like ancient history.”

Schoeplein believes this project allowed students to grapple with the complexities of 9/11 from different angles and in different ways. And by talking with members of the local community, they could begin to understand the profound impact this event had on individual lives.

“Listening to the interviews we conducted in 8th grade, I realized how many important and interesting stories were in our own town that we wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t asked,” said Adve, who graduated earlier this year. “The unique experiences people shared could not be conveyed through the kinds of statistics and reports we typically study. The next year, I applied to be an intern so I could keep asking those questions and get to know our community better.”

Adve and three other classmates led the production team. Their work included writing scripts, editing, and narrating each episode. Adve is the student producer, since she was able to see the project to its completion.

“I think the most impactful parts of this project were the anecdotes that showed how much life changed after 9/11,” Adve said. “I mostly only understood these facts intellectually, but hearing the small details about instances of patriotism, bigotry, surveillance, etc. in everyday life was eye opening.”

Episode listings:

  • Episode one7:46 CST (Sept. 11) revisits the day of September 11, 2001, and weeks following. Hear from government officials, members of the local Muslim community, university experts, students, veterans, and more, as the podcast explores how 9/11 impacted — and continues to impact — our community.
  • Episode twoThe Frontlines: War and Protest After 9/11 (Sept. 18) discusses how 9/11 led to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and reflects on their justification. Hear veterans’ perspectives on serving in the wars, learn about the destruction they caused, and listen to accounts of activism against them from here in Champaign/Urbana.
  • Episode threeLiberty vs. Security: Domestic Policy Post 9/11 (Sept. 25) plunges into the liberty-security clash post 9/11. Explore pivotal domestic policies shaping a nation's path and feel the intricate balance between societal safety and personal freedoms through 9/11 survivors' stories. 
  • Episode fourWhispering As-salaamu Alaikum (Oct. 2) reveals the impacts 9/11 had on Muslims in the United States and right here in Champaign-Urbana. Hear about the struggles many Muslims across the country faced in the aftermath of 9/11 and how they overcame those challenges to continue to thrive in America today.

“800 Miles from Ground Zero: 9/11's Impact on Central Illinois” is available as a part of the Illinois Youth Media Podcast—a production of Illinois Public Media in collaboration with school districts across our region that offers an ongoing digital space for young people to share stories about their communities and their own lives to better understand their past, present, and future. A new episode will premiere every Monday through October 2 at will.illinois.edu/illinoisyouthmedia/911 or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Since 1995, Uni High and Illinois Public Media have partnered to produce audio documentaries and podcasts based on oral history interviews conducted by Uni students. Today, this has become a core part of Uni High’s eighth grade social studies curriculum. With the Oral History Project, students study broad social issues through the lens of stories from our community. Specifically, eighth graders work in teams to conduct interviews. Their work is supported by a team of upper-class students who continue working on the project as “WILL Interns.” Through their internship, students edit the interviews, craft a narrative, and produce a podcast series.