Arielle Fischer, features editor
[NOTICE: This passage speaks on the September 11th attacks. We advise caution for sensitive readers, as this article may be triggering to some.]
On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of Americans went to work, as usual, boarded a plane or started their commute for a typical Tuesday morning, but little did they know this day would be taught in schools as one of the most horrific days in American history. 20 years ago, the world changed forever. All eyes turned towards the United States in the face of terror and absolute shock. The world stood silent, in fear and mourning, as countless lives were lost in an instant, and a glimpse of terrorism broke through upon American soil.
It is quite likely that most Americans who were alive and able to understand 9/11 remember it vividly. In schools and at home, teachers and parents alike reflect on their memory of this day to children, teaching their stance on 9/11’s history and the war that followed in its wake. However, in relation to Sept. 11, there is something distinctive and unique that this particular class of freshman, the class of 2025, all share in common: none of its members were alive when the attacks occurred.
This may not seem enticing or important in any way, but on the contrary, these freshmen, and most current undergraduate students, have been told everything they know of 9/11, instead of experiencing the event for themselves. These students and young adults lack a complete understanding of the events of that day, purely because they were not alive. Each perception a younger student forms on the event is based on what someone else has told them, or what footage and documentation they have seen.
We spoke with both history professors and current Berry freshmen to hear their reflection of the gruesome Sept. 11 attacks as well as the future following them.
Kelsey Rice, professor of history, reflects on her own memory of Sept. 11, 2001 as a young girl, her stance on the events as an educator and what the future may hold following the attacks.
When 9/11 occurred, Rice was 13 years old, living in Eastern Washington. Rice initially remembers learning about the attacks on the same school day as they were unfolding, as well as learning more about New York City and the Pentagon since she was so far removed geographically.
When asked what she most associated with the attacks Rice says, “There are a few of the most famous images that I think anyone who is consuming the news has stayed with them,” Rice said, “There’s a very famous photograph, called ‘Falling Man.’ You see an unknown, never-identified person who worked at one of the towers, and chose to leap out of the window rather than run. There are certain frozen images that I think a lot of people associate 9/11 with.”
Rice follows this association with another. “There was the initial united response to it. It was a great feeling of sympathy, and outpouring of love towards New York,” Rice said. “But, it was followed by greater dissent as debates about a war started to animate society, as well as political polarization.”
Rice goes on to argue that it is crucial to those born after Sept. 11 2001 to acknowledge they are living in a world defined by the events of that day. The way the world functions now, especially regarding security and global relations, was highly impacted by the attacks. And these aren’t necessarily history, 9/11 occurred only twenty years ago, making it a current event, and we must understand that we, as of now, are still living in the immediate, direct consequences of it. To illustrate, there are people not even alive when the attacks took place that are being deployed into the military against global threats sparked by 9/11’s terrorism.
Professor of History, Christy Snider, also gave her input on the shock of Sept. 11 and the lack of firsthand experience from the freshman class.
“What I remember most is just a feeling of shock,” Snider said. “There was a desire from people to want to do something, right away. There were blood drives and an interfaith prayer service. But there was also a wave of patriotic feeling when everybody came together. It seemed to overwhelm any type of partisan feelings.”
Snider argues that it is important to teach students about this incident, especially because even though they may not have been there at the beginning, students have faced the consequences of 9/11 their entire lives up to a few weeks ago with the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. So, no matter when students were born, they are still very much a part of this history.
Snider continues that the concept of “Where were you?” is how many people dictate current events and recent history. It also serves as a statement of unity because so many people can relate to it in this way.
“I’m not yet sure that your generation has had one of those unifying events,” Snider said. “I don’t think it gives you a hook into America’s past, or that you can feel like ‘we all went through this together.’ My hope is that there will be events, hopefully, nothing horrific or shocking, that will bring the nation and your generation back together.”
Snider encourages students to actively engage in documentaries and research into the event so they stay informed and educated on the attacks.
In addition to professors, we also spoke with Berry freshmen this week to hear their input on the attacks of 9/11 as well as their reflection on not being alive during the attacks.
Stephen Lorentz Jr., a Berry freshman, discusses the significance of 9/11 and his individual hopes for the future as someone who was not alive during the attacks.
Lorentz remembers learning about Sept.11, as a child in elementary school. Even at a young age, he was able to recognize and comprehend how bad the situation was, partially due to how quickly and substantially America took control of the situation in the Middle East.
“Knowing something so big happened when I wasn’t alive, it makes me feel small in the grand scheme of things,” Lorentz said. “But more so than small, it makes me feel more prepared for the future.”
Lorentz continues to say that something bad can always happen and seeing this enormous attack has definitely brought people to unity, in addition to being more prepared for anything.
When prompted with how he believes the world changed before and after the attacks, Lorentz said, “People’s perception of the Middle East and Arabic world went down a lot just because not many Americans are as educated on that part of the world as they should be. People began to see every one of those people as terrorists, which is absolutely not the case. 9/11 scarred a lot of people’s minds, and it left a sour taste in their mouths of what the other side of the world was like.”
Lorentz claims that there was indeed a loss of connection between those who were alive and those who were not during the attack.
“I’ll never be able to fully understand and grasp the tragedy, as those who were alive did,” Lorentz said. “My cousin, for one, was only in the first grade when it happened, but she remembers it vividly. I’ve never been through anything like that, something so big that the whole country unites around it.”
Lorentz’s hope for the future is that people become more knowledgeable. People fear the unknown and what could happen next, but knowledge and education are crucial components of understanding the world and its people. It is up to the education system not to shy away from the uncomfortable and tragic, and educate children on the truth.
Cara Miles, freshman, reflected on her personal experience of 9/11 and the global changes that followed.
“When I was five, I was introduced to the significance of the event,” Miles said. “I remember thinking it was sad, but at the time I didn’t completely understand it. Every year I learned more about it, from both family and school.”
Miles mentioned that because of the recentness of the attacks, she is able to relate with it more than she would with say Pearl Harbor or the Revolutionary War.
“Even though I don’t remember 9/11, I still feel the same empathy I would feel if I was alive,” Miles said. “I take its significance into account every year and pray for their families.”
Miles believes that before Sept. 11, 2001, the world was far more unified as a whole. The act of terrorism drew countries apart, but each year, the day itself is a way for people to come together and reflect on a tragedy that impacts us all. However, as the years go on, the significance to younger generations may be lessened because it was not as recent.
When asked if she believed there was a loss of connection between those who were alive and not, Miles said that there certainly was. Miles reflected that older generations who experienced the attacks were forever impacted and mentally scarred. However, because a large portion of younger generations was not alive, we understand the significance and tragedy of the event, but will never share the scarring and empathy of those who saw it firsthand.
Miles continued to discuss her thoughts on the future of this country following the traumatic terrorist strikes.
“This makes me think of the phrase, ‘You have to learn history so it won’t repeat itself,’” Miles said. “I feel like this is something that everyone will learn in schools, especially about how it affected America as a country. It was and still is, a scary and big event. It’ll bring fear into future generations, but as we go on and more things happen, 9/11 can be something to relate back to, and draw upon.”
Millennials and older may remember what the world was like before Sept.11, and from this are able to draw comparisons and contrasts to our current world. But the post-9/11 world is what Generation Z was handed to, it is all we’ve ever known. But hopefully, with the right education and growth of knowledge around the world, we as individuals will be able to properly reflect on Sept.11, as well as prevent tragic occurrences from happening again worldwide. We send a resounding “thank you” to the first responders who saved countless people on this day and may all those who lost their lives on 9/11 rest in peace.