By Faith Oak
September 11, 2018, marked the 17th anniversary of one of the most infamous days in American history. That morning, al Qaeda terrorists hijacked American airplanes and targeted the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House in a series of four coordinated strikes. The unprecedented attacks cost 2,977 lives, forever changing the American perspective and national security policy while also sparking the initiative for the “war on terror.”
Public schools across the nation still honor
those lost every year, often by conducting a moment of silence. While the date is far from forgotten, 17 years later the demographic of American high schools has vastly evolved. This year’s senior class represents the borderline for students who were alive during the event. The majority of our school’s student population, including myself, was born after September 11, 2001, and those who were alive were only infants.
While this means there are still some students whose families or friends were directly impacted on the day of the attack, the large majority of us never experienced the direct horror and shock to the extent that past classes did.
“I think that not being alive during 9/11 makes it harder to connect emotionally, as we did not watch it on the television when it was breaking news. We are informed about it through secondary sources rather than personal sources,” junior Ivy Chen said.
To many teachers and adults, this is problematic because in teaching students about such a sensitive topic from a historical lens, it is often easy for meaning to be lost. The attack that utterly devastated their own generation has become to many students just another tragic, distant event in history, similar to Pearl Harbor or the John F. Kennedy assassination.
“I don’t think learning or hearing about it personally affects me as much because it’s not a topic you can just imagine going through,” freshman Eunice Chung said.
However, this is not to say that because we were not present to witness the attack, we are completely ignorant to the fear and trauma it caused, far from it. On the contrary, America’s youth has experienced more than its fair share of grief in the senseless killings and discriminatory violence that has become prevalent throughout the country in just the past few years. The horrors we have witnessed before reaching adulthood have permanently labeled us the generation of mass shootings.
Our generation is unique in another sense; because it has been around for such a large number of shootings, attacks, and violence, it can be argued that we have become even more desensitized to the kind of violence introduced on 9/11. We have never seen a world without the effects of this particular act of terror, and we have been raised right along with the American people’s response.
“I talk to my parents about it and they’re able to talk about everything they were doing in that moment when they turned on the news. And they talk about how it had a big impact in their lives. And, well, we’re young, but in our generation there is this sense of desensitization where I don’t exactly remember what happened even with the recent school shootings or the Vegas shooting. It’s come to this point where it’s just another statistic in my mind. These events occur on a much smaller scale more frequently, and it makes it harder to get emotionally attached,” senior Drake Valenzuela said.
The threat of violence has become almost commonplace, but today’s students have had to rise up to address and overcome the fear it creates. Despite being part of this new, unfamiliar era that we have not yet learned to navigate, our generation has been forced to grow up quickly to process and rally against events like 9/11 on its own accord.
“I understand that my being born after the events of 9/11 distances me more from the emotional response that witnesses of this traumatic day experience. However, learning about and watching news clips of 9/11 helps me to empathize with the older generations of Americans. While the day we reserve to remember this historical event is one of reflection, it is also a reminder of our resilient country and that by being united on our democratic principles we can overcome anything,” sophomore Audrey Todd said.