September 11, 2001.
What stands out as one of the most terrifying and life-changing moments for millions of Americans can also be seen as just another event in the history books for millions …
September 11, 2001.
What stands out as one of the most terrifying and life-changing moments for millions of Americans can also be seen as just another event in the history books for millions more — especially those who were too young to remember Sept. 11, or were born later.
They have seen the footage, they have heard eyewitness accounts from those who were in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, that day, they learn about the terrorist attacks on the country in the classroom, but for every student interviewed for this story, one theme remains constant: the lack of a personal connection to 9/11.
CHS senior class president Anjali Patel was born Dec. 19, 1999, but has no personal memories from the event that took place close to two years later.
“I remember in elementary school we would always take time out to remember and learn some key things about 9/11. I was always told it was an important factor of life in general and we should never forget it,” Patel explained.
Not being able to personally relate to those who lived through the moment, Patel considers herself understanding despite not having the personal connection.
“I feel like I can understand them, but I cannot understand them in a way where as in they experienced it, they have more knowledge and an understanding back then — they were aware of what was going on so it’s like a different mentality. It touches them in their heart, like right now it does to me, but not as much as them.”
The 17-year-old has still been able to gather some important takeaways from Sept. 11.
“The main thing I’ve gotten out of 9/11 is the inspiration. I felt like even though I was very young at that moment and I didn’t know what was going on, I do feel as if it’s something that brought everyone together as a community,” Patel said.
She also is more understanding of the added security measures.
“A lot of people underestimate the thought of security and just get bugged or annoyed by it, but my perspective on it is that I’m thankful for it,” Patel commented.
“Anything can happen at any moment, you just need to take the time and initiative to go through the procedures and make sure everyone is safe.”
It is her understanding and appreciation of those security measures that makes Patel thankful for safety drills and other learning opportunities.
“No matter if it’s a drill or anything, I want it to be a drill where I’m actually learning things just in case it happens, because as we know, things can happen to anyone,”
For Patel, one of the biggest threats to the nation currently is ourselves and the things we say and how we act.
Junior Faith Shellhouse was born before Sept. 11 on April 5, 2001, but since she was only 5 months old when the attack on the country took place, has no personal recollection of the events.
Still, Sept. 11 has proven to be a defining moment for Shellhouse to reflect upon.
“It’s something that when I think about it, proves that America isn’t bulletproof and that we need to be aware that we’re not going to be safe all the time. We can’t think that we’re going to be ok all of the time and that we’ll always be protected, because there’s always that scare that we could get hurt,” Shellhouse stated.
The 16-year-old has heard stories from Sept. 11 numerous times from her family, but especially her father.
“He was a Marine for four years and then after that was a volunteer firefighter. My uncle was a chief fireman in Alabama and you grow up around that and feel safe all the time, but you learn about that and I would think to myself ‘this couldn’t happen to us, this couldn’t be real,’ but you see that it did happen and it’s kind of shocking.”
According to Shellhouse, she first developed a serious interest in the event during seventh grade and has watched the videos of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers and a documentary.
“It really made me think to myself and shocked me — it honestly tore my heart,” Shellhouse said.
“You hear and see all these things happen, but then you see it as something that happened to people that you could be close with. You see that there are people jumping out of buildings and how bad does it have to be to kill yourself?”
Despite her understanding of the events that made up Sept. 11, Shellhouse still finds it hard to relate to those who lived through it and feels that they have much stronger emotions than she does.
“When I think about it, I think of it as a whole and I’m trying to comprehend everyone’s feelings about it and how it effected them,” Shellhouse said.
“We didn’t experience it, so we don’t have that connection to it.”
Cleveland High sophomore Zach Turner is part of the first wave of the true post-Sept. 11 generation, having been born on Nov. 12, 2001.
His first memories of learning about the event stem from elementary school.
“We always did a lesson on it or Patriot Day (activity) in elementary school and the earliest I remember paying attention to it and remembering it would be about third grade — that’s when it first really stuck with me,” Turner said.
Turner understands that the terrorist group Al Qaida hijacked four planes, crashing two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and was unable to use the fourth, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, as the passengers retook it, sacrificing themselves in the process.
“It brings feelings of sadness and anguish towards the families of the lives that were lost in the towers, but it also brings feelings of anger and resentment towards the group that performed the terrorist attacks,” he commented.
Turner also knows that changes came to the country following that day, with most concerning security.
“I’ve heard that security was a lot softer and now that this has happened it’s become a lot more beefed up,” he stated. “I know I hardly ever travel by airplane because it takes so long to get through, we usually just drive.”
Part of the changes that Turner has grown up with is the realization and understanding that America is not untouchable.
“It kind of gets your head out of the clouds and back on your shoulders...I think about it, but I wouldn’t say it’s often. I think about what the world has come to today and I’m glad I’m in America, where I know we’re protected,” Turner commented.
Considering possible threats to the nation is something that sophomore has given some thought to, with North Korea being high on his list.
“We’re in a high value area between Oak Ridge and Chattanooga and all the other nuclear plants we have around us, I have been thinking about that recently, with how North Korea has got nuclear missile and nuclear weapons and I think we’re kind of in a danger zone,” he commented.
“I don’t think a large terrorist attack would happen here, but a large scale military operation isn’t out of the picture.”
Freshman Elliott Brock was born on June 18, 2003, nearly two years after Sept. 11.
Admitting that it is an event that she doesn’t relate to on a personal level, Brock’s earliest understanding of it stems from a trip to the Ground Zero memorial in NYC when she was between eight and 10 years old. While in New York, Brock was able to see them working on the construction of One World Trade Center.
“I understood more of why people were afraid because of the twin towers and all the people who died,” Brock said.
“I feel sad that my parents and grandparents had to go through everything, being scared and not knowing what was going on.”
For Brock, the Sept. 11 attack was truly an attack on hope.
“The twin towers were the tallest towers in the United States I believe, and taking that down would take down the nation’s hope for everything,” she stated.
While she knows and understands that anything could happen to us at anytime, Brock does not spend much time dwelling on it as it is common knowledge.
“The thought that things like that can happen here is pushed to the side,” Brock said.
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