The last of the high schoolers who were alive on Sept. 11, 2001 have graduated. The remainder of high school students (and younger), like myself, were born after the tragic events that took place on this day twenty years ago. Despite this, the importance of the tragedy and of the individuals who lost their lives on this day is passed onto us by our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and the country that came together when it was most vital.
We have grown up hearing stories of where our parents were the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, reflecting and mourning the event every year when September comes around, and knowing the date 9/11 as only synonymous with the event that changed our country.
When I think of 9/11, I think of the innocent people who left their homes that day expecting to make it back home that night; the families who lost loved ones; the people who survived that day, but have to live with those memories; the emergency personnel who ran into the buildings while everyone else was running out, risking their lives to save the lives of others. My heart goes out to all of the people affected.
Every year when we watch documentaries detailing the attacks and the aftermath in school, see hundreds of thousands of posts on social media remembering the day, and reflect on the events, I think of the people who could have made it out of the World Trade Center that day, but instead ran back in to help others who were trapped or trying to escape. I think of the unknown heroes who put others ahead of themselves even when they knew they may not make it out. I could only hope I would have the courage to do the same.
Seeing videos of how our country came together that day feels extremely heartwarming, but also almost incomprehensible. I was born in 2003 and the America that I have grown up in is not the same as the America that banded together through the tragedy and offered-up unconditional generosity and love for each other that day.
Coming together was not the experience of all Americans following the attacks, though. To Muslims and Middle Eastern Americans, the days, months, and years after 9/11 were not full of unconditional generosity and love. For my entire life, almost 18 years, the United States has been at war in the Middle East and hate crimes have been committed against Muslim and Middle Eastern Americans. Americans who, just like the rest of us, were not related to the attacks on 9/11 in any way and maybe weren’t even born yet.
To me, today is a day about remembering the 2,977 people whose lives were taken from us 20 years ago, as well as recommitting to living our own lives with kindness, understanding, and love for one another. 9/11 is a constant reminder of how quickly life can be taken from us and the importance of community.
The world has changed tremendously in the last 20 years, but the date 9/11 has not and never will lose its significance. My generation will pass on the importance of the event and the people who were taken from us too soon to our children and our children’s children. Our country was forever changed that day.