By Elise Bechtel
This Saturday marks 20 years since the terrorist attacks occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. I recently watched a docuseries on Netflix called “Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror” that recalls the events of 9/11, the decade of terror that proceeds it and how the United States chose to respond.
While I was watching the series, I realized that as someone who was born nine months prior to 9/11, I don’t have any memories of these events. Much like the majority of American, I immediately recognize the date and the events surrounding it. However, the younger generation of Americans do not have prevalent memories of 9/11, if they even remember the day at all. These generations must rely on their families, educators and the media to share their experiences and memories of that day.
I was just nine months old, living in a naval air base town when the twin towers and Pentagon were hit by hijacked Boeing 757 and 767 planes. I remember one of my elementary or middle school teachers sharing their memories of that day. They said that in the breakroom, there was a TV and the teachers had the news on in the background before school had even opened for the day. I remember how my teacher recounted how they felt as they watched a plane hit one of the towers: there was shock and fear.
In my family, my dad always tells the story of our first trip to Disneyland after 9/11 as an example of the fear the U.S. emitted after the attack. We were staying in The Grand Californian, and he says that prices dropped for that first year after the terror attacks because no one was traveling. There were so few people in the park and even fewer staying in the hotels. People were scared.
As I grew up, I knew something bad had happened on 9/11, but as a kid, it was hard to grasp the gravity of that day. Because of this, I feel like I learned about the day in stages. In first grade we stood for the national anthem and took a few moments of silence in remembrance. I didn’t know why; we just did. In fourth grade we did the same thing, but this time the teacher sat us down and told us about 9/11 and why we remember it. In sixth grade my history teacher had us watch a documentary that left a heavy feeling in the air and we had a conversation about afterward.
As my generation got older, we were mature enough to learn a little more, and yet, I feel the older we got, the less important 9/11 seemed to be around me. By my senior year of high school, I was no longer remembering and learning about the events of 9/11; it was just something we as a nation lived with and through.
I think it is important for us to remember 9/11 because it was one of the major turning points in our nation’s history. This tragic event seemed to be a wake-up call for Americans. It showed us that we are not invincible. 9/11 led to greater security measures in airports and public places.
If we just look at security within the U.S. from twenty years ago and compare it to today, we can see how big of an impact the events of 9/11 had on our country. This year, on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, I encourage you to take some time to remember all the people that lost their lives in the attacks and to honor all those affected by that day.
For those that wish to learn more about 9/11, I highly recommend the following. First, the previously mentioned Netflix docuseries “Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror.” The documentary illustrates how the country was forced to change after the attack, and interviews survivors, allowing individuals who do not remember the day a chance to understand the historic event.
Second, within our community, the Ronald Reagan Library will be holding a memorial service on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. Additionally, their current FBI exhibit has a gallery dedicated to 9/11, along with pieces of history tied to the event. More information about this service can be found here: https://www.reaganfoundation.org/programs-events/events-calendar/commemoration-of-the-20th-anniversary-of-911/.
As a member of Generation Z, I do not have the same emotional attachment surrounding 9/11 as my parents do. I feel sad and angry that so many people died in such a tragic way, but because I was less than a year old when it happened, I do not carry the trauma that many people in our country may. History is important, it is the bridge between our generations. If we do not engage with our history, we will never learn from it. The events of 9/11 are difficult to discuss, but if we do not make an effort to remember it, we could lose that history. And 9/11 is something we should never forget.