Why 9/11 needs to stay relevant

By on September 16, 2015

Sept. 11, 2001, was one of the most confusing days of my life. I was 8 years old and in the third grade. There was nothing too remarkable or different the morning it happened. I went through my day just like I always did.

But right before lunchtime, the designated time when one of the teachers would come in and read a book to us before lining up to head to the lunchroom, the classroom phone started ringing. The teacher picked it up, listened to the message on the other end, and hung up. She announced my dad was waiting for me in the office and that I should go meet him.

I was actually excited at first because there was the possibility of going home early. When I walked to the main office, the hallway was crowded with parents, and the line spilled out into the vestibule and out the front entrance of the school, but I didn’t see my dad.

I went back to lunch, not sure why I was being lied to, but after many back and forths, I was finally united with my father and my two siblings and left the school.

As we walked to the car, holding my father’s hand, I asked him what had happened that caused so many parents to pick up their children.

“Well, two planes hit the World Trade Center,” he said.

“Oh,” I happily replied, not even knowing what the World Trade Center was.

When we got home, we all had lunch and sat in front of the TV. The burning towers and their subsequent fall was the only thing I watched on that screen all day (and for the next week after that). I anxiously looked out the window waiting for my mom, who reported she could see the smoke in the sky on her drive from work.

Those images on that screen changed me. The billowing smoke that chased people down city blocks, covering them in rubble and debris, still haunts me. I used to be terrified every time I heard a plane fly overhead for at least a year. While I personally did not know anyone who died from the tragedy, this day always hits me hard. I can’t even imagine what someone who lost a family or friend must feel like on the anniversary of this day.

The current freshmen were only 4 years old on the day that this national horror occurred. They may not remember too much of it, if anything at all. 9/11 might have the same relevance to them as the JFK assassination or Pearl Harbor.

But it has to be more than that. Future generations need to know that this attack changed so many things for us as a country: security, media, privacy. Once considered the safest way to travel, airplanes became sources of fear. Routine security procedures at the airport that we know today only came into effect after 9/11. Our country’s landscape, both metaphorically and physically, was altered forever after this act of hate.

Never was America attacked on such a massive scale, on our own soil, causing us to lose one of our greatest landmarks. But America banded together like it never did before, inspiring a wave of patriotism and kindness that showed why we are the strongest country in the world.

This day can’t go down in history as just another incident in the “war on terror.” It has to be explained, commemorated and respected. It has to be a lesson to everyone that our nation is resilient, our nation is united, and our nation is great.

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About Kelly Novak

Associate Arts and Life Editor