Growing Up in a Post-9/11 World

Author: Elizabeth Zarb, Current Events/Politics

I have lived in New York my entire life. But, I do not remember the Twin Towers.

On September 11th, 2001, I sat in my family room watching Blue’s Clues. I was only two years old. I didn’t see the look of terror on my mom’s face, as she couldn’t get ahold of my dad. I didn’t see the news reports, showing the plane hitting the South Tower.

The youngest millennials, such as those born in 1999, do not remember 9/11. We have absolutely no recollection of life or travel before those awful attacks. We grew up strictly in a post-9/11 society, and it’s something that hasn’t really touched on. 

I had only flown one time before September 11th, and quite obviously I don’t remember it. What’s familiar to me at airports is TSA at every single area, high tech scanners, taking shoes off before allowed through security, random selection, no water bottles allowed, and an all-around uneasy feeling.

Of course, I’ve heard stories about flying before 9/11. And even after hearing them, I can’t fathom not having to take out every single liquid item in my bag, or being allowed through a security checkpoint with my sweater still on. 

Life before 9/11 seems like a foreign concept. For my entire memory, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in New York (now replaced by One World Trade), not the Twin Towers. At the time, I didn’t know about the Pentagon being hit, or that the brave people of Flight 93 were able to prevent another attack by crashing into Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I didn’t know anyone who worked in the World Trade Center, and I thought the “We Will Never Forget” decals on my car windows were just pretty decorations. I was respectful during our moments of silence in school, but I didn’t think much of it.

Despite living through it, September 11th, 2001 feels like another date in my history textbook.

As I grew up, I wanted to learn more about September 11th. I read everything I could get my hands on about that day. I asked my mom questions about where she was, what it was like, and her reaction to the horrific attacks. She told me about how after 9/11, New Yorkers rallied together, and helped each other out whenever needed. And that this tragedy brought the country together, at least for a while. She was always patient with me, with her only request being that I don’t ask my dad about the day. At the time, I didn’t understand why.

But, when I was in eighth grade, I was assigned a scrapbook project about September 11th. For the first time, I was encouraged to ask my dad about what happened. It was then that 9/11 stopped being just another date.

I found out that my dad lost three friends in the attacks. He had been on the phone with one of them right before they died. He had to walk across the 59th Street Bridge in order to get home. My father very rarely shows emotion, and seeing that pain is what made September 11th finally feel real to me. I cannot thank him enough for sharing that with me. 

9/11 has since become something that I couldn’t remember, but still mourned. I still cry every year, even now. It’s a strange sort of sad, where I don’t quite know what I’m missing, but I can still feel its absence. By learning about my family’s connection to the day, I am able to understand it more than I was before. I encourage you to ask your family about their connections to that day, where they were, and how it impacted them, especially if you’re one of the younger millennials like I am.  

Some people my age have begun to forget about 9/11. My high school even stopped calling for moments of silence at the exact times that the towers were hit. My friends go about their day without another thought. I began to get agitated that the day wasn’t being remembered, because it shouldn’t be like that.

I will forever be grateful for my junior year history teacher, who was the person first in a while to force us to come to grips with the reality that is 9/11. “As long as people keep sharing their family’s stories, people will keep talking about it,” he said to me, and that’s a powerful statement I’ve never forgotten and continue to act towards. I urge all of you as well to follow this advice.

I have lived in New York my entire life. I do not remember the Twin Towers. But I remember the aftermath of September 11th, 2001, because I lived through it. It’s the only world I’ve known. I lived through a radically changed nation, I lived through people mourning, and I now know that it’s possible to never forget something you can’t even remember.

Where Were We on 9/11/01?

Author: Alli Jean, Author: Kerrin Frappier, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Author: Michelle Ioannou, Current Events/Politics

Awkward 12-year-old me sat in her seventh grade algebra class, decked out in Limited Too from head to toe, thinking it was just the start of another boring math class.

An hour later we were hi-tailed into the auditorium for an “important announcement.” An hour and a half later I ran into my mom’s arms, crying, asking if my dad had any business in Manhattan that day and if my uncles who worked there were okay. My mom didn’t only come to school to pick me up, but as the Vice President of the parent association, she had to assist with emergency dismissal. Two hours later I found myself sitting on my backpack in the hallway with the other students whose parents were part of the parent association.

I wanted to go home. I couldn’t go home because my mom couldn’t leave until emergency dismissal was over and every last kid was accounted for. Once we finally left and went home, all I can remember is drowning my worries in a bag of cookies.

In the days after I remember being able to smell smoke from our house, how my uncle lost friends and my dad losing a cousin in the line of duty. But I also remember how we expressed our pride — both in being Americans and in being New Yorkers. – Mary Grace

I was in fifth grade. I remember sitting in class and seeing the first of my classmates get called to leave as their parents were there. Then the second. Then shortly after it was my turn. My mother had come to get my brother and me too.

I will never forgetting walking into the school office where my mother had to sign us out. There were a bunch of school workers watching the television and sobbing. Everything from then on became blurry.

That is, until I got home and I could not only smell the smoke in the air, but I could see it.

I remember praying. I remember looking at the icons I have in my room and praying to God that nothing else was going to happen, as at that point, we really didn’t know if there was more in store. I remember praying for everyone who fell victim in the attacks, their family, their friends. I remember thanking God that my family was safe, and that we were able to get in touch with everyone.

And I remember thanking my parents, for pulling my brother and me out of school. It was a time where we needed to be with our family. We needed to be held by our parents, and told that everything was going to be okay.

Living in New York City my entire life, you can imagine how much this hit home. But seeing the entire country come together in support and stand tall, that was also something I’ll never forget.

I’m proud to be a New Yorker. I always have been and I always will be. Our resilience is like no other. Our strength is like no other. Our attitude is like no other.

I may have only been ten years old when the attacks happened, but it’s a day that’s ingrained in my mind forever.  – Michelle

Twin Tower Reflecing Pool Memorial

I was in seventh grade. I remember our principal coming into the lunchroom and informing us that there had been a terrorist attack, that anyone who had family in New York could leave early or call home, but school was staying in session.

In typical self-involved middle-schooler fashion, my initial reaction was to roll my eyes and to assume that this “attack” was being highly exaggerated. My parents were avid news watchers and after growing up hearing about constant fighting around the world, what should have been a red flag to me sounded like more of the same: adults arguing about politics, religion, business and so on that led to unnecessary violence.

It wasn’t until I got home from school and saw the footage of the planes hitting the towers that the impact of what had happened affected me. Thus began my hatred of war and entrance into political activism. – Alli

It happened almost 200 miles away while I was sitting in Social Studies between 8:30 and 9:20 a.m. My classmates and I were blissfully unaware of the event, but the adults at my school knew something terrible had unfolded. It came to my attention by accident when I had returned to my gym locker because I’d forgotten my sweatshirt.

“A plane flew into the Pentagon” one gym teacher whispered. Rumors swirled that “some idiot crashed into the Twin Towers,” but when I got a note from the office telling me to get off the bus at our family’s restaurant instead of at home (where my sister and I would’ve been alone) I knew something was horribly wrong.

My mom now teaches fifth grade and tells that story to her students as a “history” lesson… but for many Americans that tragedy and its aftermath continues to impact our everyday lives from how we fly to how we treat our fellow citizens. – Kerrin