Shea Wixson and
There is a day, every year, that unites a nation together. A day in which Americans are able to forget our daily worries, focus on a bigger picture, and support each other and the country we live in. That day is Sept. 11. The events that took place fifteen years ago on 9/11 affect everyone in a different way depending on how old you were, where you were, and what you were doing.
We have all heard the remarkable stories of heroes of 9/11 firefighters, police, and everyday people who saved lives. We have all heard stories of the tragedies that took place and carry those with us.
Those of us in college now, just starting into our own adulthoods, are very aware that 9/11 happened in our lifetime. Yet our memories are often unclear as to the specific details of that day. The balance between knowledge and memory can be a thin line. To try and gain some clarity on the matter, I have interviewed people on their memory of September 11, 2001.
“My birthday is [on] 9/11, so I do have a very vivid memory of the day that it happened. I was turning five, and I remember having the teachers tell us we were going to be going home early, no one told us why. I at the time thought it was because they realized it was my birthday and let us go home so I could celebrate. Of course I learned the truth, but that moment looking back always struck me kind of haunting. I was just a little kid and I was so happy on a day of such terror, I didn’t know what the Twin Towers were, or that that kind of anger existed in the world. I thought it was my birthday, and only happy things can happen on birthdays,” said Elle, 19.
“[The attacks on] 9/11 didn’t have much affect on me at the time when it occurred, and I think that’s true with most people my age, since we were only around 4 or 5. I think I have different view on the situation because of how young I was. I look at it as a sad day of course, but for me there is also that overwhelming feeling of hope. When bad things happen, people can make a choice to let it keep us down and defeat us or rise together and show that we are strong and we are made of more. America came together, plain and simple, human beings didn’t care about anything but helping those around them, supporting families and strangers and trying to get through the hard time together. We showed the world the kind of nation we truly are, one of love and courage and strength,” said anonymous, 20.
“Last summer I got to visit New York for the first time, and on my third day there, I went to the 9/11 Memorial. It is an almost indescribable feeling you get standing where the World Trade center use to stand. I was standing there and trying to imagine what it could have been like on that day; I couldn’t. Standing there, there is a feeling and energy around that area that affects everyone. I was standing next to my Dad, and on my left was a man I had never met, and we both looked up at the sky and looked at each other, then he pats me on the back and walks away. I will never forget that moment, because to me in a very very small way, maybe that’s what it felt like to be standing there on that day. Looking at the sky not knowing how to feel, and the only comfort you have are the strangers next to you,” said Peyton, 21.
Older generations remember the pain of 9/11 more clearly. A nurse at a local hospital in Greensboro, who wishes to remain anonymous, says “I was 25 years old at the time. I was in my room and I called in from work. My younger sister was working downtown in the middle of Manhattan, so I was worried about her. She saw the smoke and heard the explosion. She called me to say she loved me and didn’t know if she was going to live…then lost her phone service. I worked at the American Red Cross and they were calling in tons of people to donate blood to the victims.”
An anonymous police officer who was placed on disability for the event itself states of his service that “It was my duty. We are the cops, who else? I live and breathe for this country so if not me, if not us, then who? I wouldn’t change a thing.”
It is important that we continue to tell the stories of 9/11, the good and the bad. To keep teaching what happened, to educate others and ourselves as much as we can. Our generation may not remember exactly what it was like on that day the way others do, but we know the stories, we have met survivors, been to the memorial, we have been changed by the events that took place; 9/11 has shaped us.