9/11: Reflections from our Generation

By Katie Tabeling
Opinion Editor

I was in my fourth grade class room when I heard the news. The intercom crackled to life, throwing words like “bombs” and “nation under attack”, and suddenly I was crammed aboard a school bus with fifty other confused and anxious kids. I had no idea what was going on. When my brothers and I got home, I found my mother watching the television. At first I thought it was an action movie, with a plane crashing into a skyscraper, fire erupting quickly from where it impacted. I slowly realized that this was no movie; this was a recording of a very real building and a very real plane crashing into it, with somber newscasters talking over the feed. In that afternoon, I learned what the word “terrorism” truly was: it wasn’t something in an Arnold Schwarzenegger flick; it was a scare tactic that killed thousands of people.

I was only nine years old. Ten years ago today, I was just a kid whose small world consisted of fourth grade friends, my family, struggling with math problems, and what cartoons were playing after school. I didn’t know about wars in foreign countries, and to be honest, I didn’t care much about anything happening outside my own backyard. After September 11, 2001, however, my small world expanded, for better or worse. I remember watching footage of soldiers preparing for war. In my fifth grade class, nasty rumors circled a Middle-Eastern girl until she transferred. Words and phrases like “war on terror” and “Al-Qaeda” appeared in my vocabulary.

9/11 ended my childhood, and I am not alone. It successfully ended the innocence of our generation with an explosion. Overnight, we adapted to the gritty new world of war and politics. Emergency drills became too frequent, security checkpoints became stifling, and suddenly people were silently judging those who looked different. Who remembers even being taught what racism was before the September 11th Attacks? I sure don’t.

Arguably, the most devastating outcome from 9/11 (outside the loss of thousands of people) is the crippling fear. We now live in a world where it is a harrowing experience to step foot on a plane, where the children are aware what terrorism is. We live in a country where some people are still afraid of people with Middle-Eastern decent because Osama bin Ladin’s face still haunts them to this day. We live in a world where we look to our landmarks and wonder “Are you next? Will you be the next to fall?”

The fear that history could repeat itself lives in everyone’s mind today. Isn’t that what dictates almost everything for the past ten years in America? Either we are prepared for the worse or prepared to attack, whether it is nationally or individually. If the September 11th attacks never occurred, could you really say that we would have invaded Afghanistan? Would we still have arguments over what constitutes as a constitutional wire-tapping? Would a wave of hate crimes still crash upon American shores, as it did following 9/11?

Despite the horrific outcomes of that fateful day ten years ago, there were some positive results. An American flag flew outside every home. Thousands of Americans helped direct victims of 9/11 by donating blood. In the face of devastation, Americans stood as one, proclaiming that “We are still here.” And when the Freedom Towers are finished, the entire world will see that we are still standing strong.

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