I understand the need for our country to look at Sept. 11 as not only an anniversary, but also as a time to heal and move forward.
It seemed that a few months ago, people started saying the 10th anniversary of the attacks would be the anniversary that would end the decade of pain. Are we now in the stage that simply involves Americans gathering on the 25th, 50th and 75th anniversaries of that day? I didn’t know we were ready to put the moment that changed everything into the history books and move on.
In fact, I’m scared that we are moving on too soon.
Confusion is preventing me from fully doing so. Ten years later, after taking classes on terrorism and reading books about Sept. 11’s impact, I’m still not sure how much that day changed us and why it did.
I see this confusion reflected in the way people on campus still talk about that morning. Current students who were 8, 10, 11 or 12-years old in 2001 are now so much older, but we will never forget so many details of where we were, what we were doing and how we felt. According to a Pew Research Survey conducted in August, 97 percent of Americans remember where they were when they learned of the news that a plane hit the first tower.
But there seems to be this need for us, as college students, to share our stories even now. And when members of our generation start to talk about where each of us was that day, there is this somewhat suppressed, but noticeable need for people to tell their story in a way that shows just how much they were affected. “Well, I live in New Jersey, and my classmates had parents who worked in New York,” you will hear people say, or, “My aunt worked in D.C. and we couldn’t get in touch with her until days later.”
To this day, it still takes me a while to admit that I cried during the school-wide mass held by my Catholic school. I lived in a suburb of Philadelphia, and I had no relatives who worked in New York or D.C. I was scared because my dad was flying back from France that day, and I couldn’t get the images of planes being used as missiles out of my 11-year-old mind.
I believe the way we tell our stories is symptomatic of our desire to rationalize the fear we felt that day. It’s as though having more of a connection to the events would make us feel better about crying or being taken out of school.
But the confusion remains. Even with all of the specials and reporting and speeches on the evils of those who attacked us, I will never truly understand why it happened. I will never understand how so many innocent people could have disappeared from this earth in almost an instant. I will never understand why I still get chills reading accounts of the children whose parents never came home from work that day.
Of course, I don’t stop what I am doing every few minutes to remember. But there is some truth to the idea that we will never forget. Stepping onto a plane, standing at the top of a skyscraper, seeing a fire truck roar out of a station – these can be reminders.
A decade later, we have moved past the fear, both as a nation and as students. We get on planes. We go to school in Washington, D.C., a city that was its own ground zero on Sept. 11. We stayed here this weekend even in the face of a credible but unconfirmed threat of additional attacks.
We moved past the fear because of the firefighters, police officers, medical responders, passengers and victims who did just that 10 years ago. The confusion still lingers, and I know that, because it does, those who lived through that day will remember each and every anniversary in their own way. We shouldn’t look at the 10th anniversary as the time to move on, but as another year in our journey of moving forward.
Lyndsey Wajert, a senior majoring in journalism, is The
Hatchet’s senior columnist.