It has been fifteen years since the largest terrorist attack in American and world history. Fifteen years since Flight 11 flew across Long Island and hit the North Tower. Fifteen years since people wondered if this could have been some sort of horrible accident until Flight 175 hit the South Tower, proving that it was not.
This event was the most influential event in recent memory, and as such many people—including students and staff here at Purdue–have vivid memories about it.
Dr. David Sederberg, Director of Physics & Astronomy Outreach, remembered, “I was teaching AP Chemistry at a local high school…I got word that something had happened, so I turned on the TV and we [the class] watched the events unfold.”
“I didn’t really understand what was happening at the time,” Zach Neumann, sophomore in Computer Engineering, said. “I remember I was about to get on the bus after the planes hit, and my mom was watching them on the TV in silence.”
“I was… 7, I think. Yeah, second grade,” Levi Talbert, a 5th year senior in Multidisciplinary Engineering commented. “Actually, I remember it very well. I was at school, I got home and remember watching the news and all those events unfold. I will say that I didn’t really grasp the weight of the tragedy when it first happened. I didn’t really know what the world trade center was, but then you start hearing 3000 people, digging people out of the rubble for months.”
For us as students, though, 9-11 happened at a strange point in our lives. This year, most juniors would have been in kindergarten in 2001. Most freshmen and sophomores weren’t even enrolled in school at the time of the attacks, which places them at a cloudy point in our memory, but everyone knows the effect it has had on our country. Luke Smith, a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering, remarked, “it has affected us in good and bad ways. It has united us in a way, made us safer, but it has also made us more wary of terrorism, which can make us more cautious of other countries that we suspect of being terrorists.”
And that is what is important about 9-11 now. We know what happened that day, we can remember, we know what it means to us. We need to make sure that those younger than us who cannot remember also know what happened, that they know what it meant. 9-11 will always remain a pivotal point in America’s history, shaping how we respond to new political situations and threats. For those younger than us, however, it won’t be the memory of 9-11 that affects their decisions, but rather the idea of it and what we teach them about it.