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The Last Standing Memories of 9/11

by ERIN CLARK and TOMMY PUGH - The tragedy of September 11th was earth-shattering for US residents, but how does it impact people younger than 18 years old?

On Sept. 11, 2001, four planes took to the skies. Two were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, one struck the Pentagon, and one crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Almost three thousand people lost their lives (“September 11 Atacks”). The United States would never be the same.

The attacks on Sept. 11 broke the hearts of millions. Generations continue to reflect on this moment: the moment that changed national security forever, the moment we couldn’t live without looking over our shoulder, the moment we began to clap after an airplane landed. The foundation of the United States was shaken.

This year marks the last year of WHS seniors that were alive when the attacks happened, the oldest students being born in June, July, or August of 2001. The class of 2019 was the last class to be able to say that all of them were alive when the attacks happened. It is a bittersweet realization. While it is melancholic that students no longer have a bond with that time period, it is also a somber sign that times have changed. Now, there’s a new generation with its own unique challenges.

All of our lives, we have lived with the rippling effects of terrorism in the United States. Airport security is something we’ve always known. Paranoia and xenophobia are not uncommon. Immigration legislation and border restrictions are constantly on the news. And that’s not a surprise. This fear has been passed down from our parents, as they were the ones who lived through these events. They can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing the moment they were informed of the tragedy. It was traumatic. And it’s a trauma that each generation onward will never fully understand.

While 9/11 may be a date we won’t fully remember or understand, it is one that we certainly reflect on every year. As US residents, many of us share similar patriotic sentiments, and we can relate to the heart-wrenching tragedy. Countless police, firefighters, and paramedics died protecting the people they loved: the American people. There were citizens who redirected the diverted plane to save countless more people in the Capitol. It’s a humbling scene, and while we may not have lived through it, we empathize with those who did. Human empathy is an irreplaceable thing.

While reflecting on 9/11 is an integral part of the day, we also end up reflecting on other similar tragedies--moments we have lived through. School shootings are something we’ve always known. International terrorism is commonplace. Mass shootings and devastation are constantly on the news. There’s no shortage of disturbing events that have plagued our nation since 9/11, epitomizing this generation with more than being born into terror.

Something that stands out in our memory as particularly somber is school shootings, particularly the recent one in Noblesville. Like many of our peers, we both remember exactly where we were when we learned the shocking news. One of us was taking a test in chemistry; the other was talking to a friend. It was devastating, frightening and paralyzing. It was so close. It was so real. And that perception is something students around the United States share, wondering if their school will be next. We often wonder if Westfield will be next. With this common experience, we have a small slice of what former generations experienced on 9/11. Terror. Hopelessness. Anxiety. These are common human emotions that we all experience.

There is no way to simplify 9/11 and its sorrow. It was something that our generation will never fully comprehend. While the attacks of 9/11 are slowly fading from our parents’ reality into our history, we will by no means forget. There is no healing without first realizing we are hurt. For the tragedy of 9/11, and for the current tragedies of today, we have to look forward towards the heroism and change, not backward at the terrorism and pain. A new generation of students is our hope for the future, and this hope paves the way for recovery and peace.

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