I was just starting my senior year of high school in September of 2001. My parents homeschooled me, which allowed flexibility for when the school year started and ended. We were 1,000 miles away from home, on our way to the Grand Canyon, when we heard the news that the planes had struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Hard to believe that was nearly two decades ago – it feels so far away, yet the memory of that day is seared in my memory like it was yesterday. After President Bush froze the price of gas, we decided to continue on to Arizona instead of returning home and I remember riding in silence for most of the day as we listened to the news on the radio, in total shock like the rest of the country.
Our world change that day. We’d have to give up freedoms to keep us safe. You could no longer drive to Canada and enter without a passport. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have to take my shoes off and go through a full body scanner, just to fly across the country. And on the one year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, I was starting my first year of college and nervous that something might happen again.
I didn’t personally know anyone who died that day or in the days after, but family members went off to war in Afghanistan in the years that followed. Off to fight a war on terror that can’t be won.
We almost view our lives now as pre-9/11 and post 9/11. It’s still eerie to see the Twin Towers in movies or on old TV reruns of Friends – we had no idea what was to come but film and media has preserved a more innocent part of the past.
It’s also strange to think how since then, other terrorists like the Boston Marathon bombers or the Las Vegas shooter have become household names, yet I don’t remember any of the hijackers identities – I only remember pictures of the heroes who risked their lives on United Flight 93 or at Ground Zero. And sadly I remember the images of people jumping from the towers to their death.
September 11th comes and goes each year, yet I always pause to remember. It’s a day that no matter how many years pass, a cloud of darkness always hangs over this particular day. There’s still that twinge that something might happen again – and it has, just not to the same extent and God-willing, America will hopefully never see another day like that again.
The graduating class of 2018 doesn’t remember these things – the first post 9/11 generation that can’t tell you exactly where they were when the planes hit because many of them were infants or not born yet.
Show them these names. Play the videos of the planes hitting the towers. Bring up the sobering images of people plunging to their death and the ash covered first responders who worked tirelessly to save as many people as they could. Take them to the memorial in New York City.
Don’t let it become just another page in a history book.
May we never forget.